New Delhi: The trial in the biggest corruption case in the country got off to a noisy start in the court of Special Central Bureau of Investigation Judge OP Saini in New Delhi on Friday. As soon as the trial in the 2G spectrum allocation scam began the defence counsel objected to the trial being conducted in a cramped space.
There was more drama as prime accused in the 2G case and former telecom minister A Raja's application seeking no cross-examination of witnesses at this stage was dismissed by the court.
Reliance Capital's Assistant Vice President Anand Subramaniam was the first to be examined by the CBI as a prosecution witness, followed by Group President of Reliance AN Sethuraman's. Chief Regulatory Officer of Etisalat DB Telecom Pvt Ltd Vinod Kumar Budhiraja is also to be cross examined in the case by the CBI.
Another 2G accused and DB Realty promoter Shahid Balwa's defence counsel Majid Memon objected to Raja's plea arguing that the former telecom minister's non-participation at this stage would hamper the case of the accused.
Most accused also refused to cross examine Subramanyam with Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) Managing Director Gautam Doshi, Reliance Communications Senior Vice-President Surendra Pipara and Reliance ADAG Senior Vice-President Hari Nair arguing that they cannot cross examine him till they are given a written copy of what he said. Doshi's lawyer also claimed that they cannot hear anything in the crowded court room.
In all 150 witnesses are to be examined in the trial that is being monitored by the Supreme Court. The list of accused includes high-profile names like and DMK MP Kanimozhi besides several top business executives.
The CBI will first be dealing with the Reliance-Swan link and try to establish that Swan Telecom was a front for Reliance Telecom and this was a violation of Clause 8 of the Telecom Policy.
Sethuraman had earlier submitted the application for the GSM licence on behalf of Swan Telecom in 2007 when the two companies were one.
The CBI, in its first list, had submitted names of 28 persons to be examined as prosecution witnesses before the court in the month of November.
The court after framing charges against 17 accused, including three telecom firms, had slated the trial to begin from November 11. In the first list, out of 28, 11 witnesses are from Reliance ADAG which suggests that the agency wants to deal first with the charges against accused firms Reliance Telecom Ltd and Shahid Usman Balwa promoted Swan Telecom.
Besides Raja and Kanimozhi, the court had framed charges against Reliance ADAG Managing Director Gautam Doshi, its Group President Surendra Pipara, its senior Vice-President Hari Nair, Shahid Usman Balwa, Unitech Ltd's MD Sanjay Chandra, DB Realty MD Vinod Goenka, Kalaignar TV MD Sharad Kumar and Bollywood filmmaker Karim Morani.
Former Telecom Secretary Siddharth Behura, Raja's former private secretary RK Chandolia, directors of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd Asif Balwa and Rajeev Agarwal, and three telecom firms - Reliance Telecom Ltd, Swan Telecom and Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu) Pvt Ltd have also been put on trial in the case.
Reliance Telecom Ltd has been put on trial by the court which said Swan Telecom Pvt Ltd was "just a mask" for RTL.
The charges framed against all the accused under various provisions of the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act deal with offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery, faking documents, abusing official position, getting bribe and criminal misconduct by public servant.
The offences entail punishment ranging from six months in jail to life imprisonment.