SC paves way for CBI case against Maran

SC paves way for CBI case against Maran

Former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran may face a CBI case over a controversial corporate deal during his tenure as the Supreme Court Thursday paved the way for his prosecution and said the government's nod was not needed for proceeding against public servants in corruption cases being monitored by it.

The probe agency is looking into allegations that the original owner of telecom company Aircel was forced by Maran to sell-off his entire stake in the company to Malaysian based Maxis company.

Asking the CBI to go ahead with the case on which it now appears the be going "tardy", the court told the probe agency to present minutes of the March 7, 2006, meeting of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) in which the Aircel-Maxis deal was cleared in 2006.

"In regards to the case being investigated and monitored on the direction of the court, the Section 6A (of the Prevention of Corruption Act that deals with sanction preceding prosecution) should not come in the way," said the apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan.

"Please go ahead and complete the investigation. Read last order. In the last order we had said that the CBI will take final view of the matter," Justice Singhvi said as senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the agency, told the court that "section 6A is standing in the way of gentleman holding a very high position".

"Our orders are clear that in court monitored cases (there is) no requirement for sanction under Section 6A," Justice Singhvi said.

"It is clarified that the finalisation of the case should not be delayed," the court said.
The court allowed the CBI two months to vet a report on the matter, which according to Venugopal runs into 20,000 pages, and file the case before the trial court.

Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner Centre for Public Interest Litigation,  told the court that Maxis held 99.3 percent stakes in Aircel and that needed to be looked into.
"We are interested that first charge sheet has to be filed (in the case). We will not pass an order which will derail the main case," said the court.

The court order came after Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy told it that the Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has told parliament that Aircel-Maxis matter came to him March 13, 2006 and March 20, 2006 Maxis was informed about its deal's approval, but a press release by the Press Information Bureau March 7, 2006 on the FIPB's decision did not mention it.

The CBI has investigated the allegation that Sivasankaran - the original owner of Aircel - was forced by Maran to sell-off his entire stake in the company to Malaysian based Maxis owned by T. Ananda Krishnan.

It has been alleged that there was quid pro quo as after Sivasankaran sold his stakes to Maxis, a Mauritius based company made big investment in Maran family owned Sun Direct channel.

The court told the CBI that the investigation was quick in the beginning but "now you are getting tardy".

As Venugopal told the court that on CBI's plea a letter rogatory was sent for seeking more information on Krishnan, the court asked the probe agency to focus on the investigation it had already conducted.

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