Friday, November 11, 2011

2G telecom trial begins - A National Spectacle

2G telecom trial begins - the Hindu

The day one of trial in 2G spectrum allocation case on Friday witnessed unprecedented crowd of lawyers, kin of the accused and scribes in the courtroom, which irked the judge after defence counsel protested the holding of the proceedings in the cramped courtroom.

“I had already repeatedly requested you (counsel) all not to create such a crowd in the court room. But you are still not adhering to my suggestions,” Special CBI Judge O. P. Saini said.

The judge, however, said he does not want to blame anyone for the crowd and asked everybody not to come near the dais as it would create problems in smooth conduct of the proceedings.

The court’s remarks came after defence counsel Majeed Memon, advocate Ramesh Gupta and others complained they are unable to hear the proceedings and deposition of witnesses due to the presence of a large number of people inside the courtroom.

“In this mess, the trial cannot proceed. We are not able to hear what witnesses are saying in the court. If we are not accommodated properly in the tiny courtroom, how can we proceed with the trial?” Mr. Memon told the judge.

Other defence cousnel too joined the chorus and said it was not possible to hold the trial in the packed courtroom and complained of extreme humidity and power cuts.

The judge, however, told everyone present in the court room to make space for the counsel near the dais so that they could proceed with the trial.

The accused sought to shift the entire blame for overcrowding on mediapersons but the judge said he could see more lawyers in the courtroom.

“I can see only lawyers near the dais. I cannot identify any mediaperson,” he said.

Also from First :-

Dressed in a pale-yellow shirt, the be-spectacled 40-year-old assistant vice-president of Reliance Capital, Anand Subramaniam, the first prosecution witness to depose in the highly anticipated trial of the 2G case, said in the court today that—”He had never got an occasion to work”—with the three Reliance ADAG executives — Hari Nair, Surendra Pipara and Gautam Doshi. The three are accused in the 2G case.

However, his statement to the CBI, quotes him saying that he had given a letter on 1 March 2007, to HDFC bank, Fort Branch, Mumbai on “telephonic instructions of Sh. Hari Nair, the Company Secretary of M/S Swan Telecom Pvt Ltd”.

Subramaniam’s statement to the CBI was recorded under Section 161 of the Criminal Procedure Code and he is not legally bound by it.

The 1 March 2007 document that was shown to Subramaniam by the CBI counsel in court was a covering letter to the account opening form, which is of M/s Swan Telecom (P) limited, in HDFC Bank, Fort Branch, Mumbai.

Subramaniam is one of the three signatories to that account opening form and also to the covering letter that was addressed to HDFC bank.

In a departure from the CBI’s recorded statement, he said that he “did not recollect as to under whose instructions I signed this letter”.

“I signed documents Ex PW1/A and 1/B (referring to the account opening form and the covering letter, respectively) as there was a board resolution in our favour including myself.”

Subramaniam remained expressionless through out what must have been a back-breaking day as he stood through five hours of questioning, first by the CBI counsel and then the cross-examination by the defence lawyers.

When asked by the CBI counsel to identify a bank account number on the 1 March 2007 letter, he said, “I am unable to tell as to which company this account number belongs to, but the last four digits ’1874′ are similar to an account of Reliance Communication Ltd.”

Subramaniam during his cross-examination by defence lawyer of RK Chandolia, the private secretary to former telecom minister A Raja, stated that he was contacted by CBI in early March 2011 and that he received notice in early March.

“My statement was recorded within a week of the receipt of that notice. My statement was recorded in one sitting alone. The statement which was signed by me, copy thereof was not given to me by the CBI. I did not sign any statement.”

Former telecom minister and accused number one in the 2G case, A Raja, caused a minor commotion in the courtroom by filing an application refusing to participate in the trial, given, his lawyer said, that the investigations were ongoing.

His lawyer refused to cross-examine the prosecution witness Anand Subramaniam, while asking for reserving the right to recall the witness for cross-examination at a later stage. The judge duly rejected the application.

The defence lawyers called Raja’s application ‘ridiculous’, stating that Raja, was the first accused and that all charges emanated from him.

Special CBI judge OP Saini called on Raja before the witness stepped down asking him whether he would like to cross-examine the witness or whether he stood by his advocate. “I stand by my advocate,” stated Raja, who was spotted on more than one occasion dozing off, during the court proceedings.
The sight of Raja taking a nap in court led one the counsels for the CBI to quip that “this was the first time he had seen Raja doze off in court. He must be really tired.”

The lack of air-conditioning due to a power cut in the over-crowded courtroom also caused a stir with some lawyers complaining to the judge about the poor conditions in court. Some lawyers also appealed to the media to raise the issue.

There was a futile request by lawyers to shift the trial to a bigger courtroom.

By the time the next prosecution witness, Reliance ADAG president AN Sethuraman took to the witness stand it was late afternoon. He described his role in the ADAG as “looking after relations of entire ADA group with the Central government”.

He said he knew the three accused Reliance ADAG executives. The 59-year-old, dressed in a white striped shirt, stood with folded hands, as the CBI counsel questioned him for more than an hour.

The defence lawyer for Hari Nair objected Sethuraman being questioned about a document (a forwarding letter dated Januray 23/25, 2007, addressed to Department of Telecommunications which was application for the UAS licence for Jammu and Kashmir Service Area) as it was before the ‘period of conspiracy’ which according to the charge was between August/September 2007 and August/September 2009.

The judge, however, kept the objection open to be decided at a later stage, allowing the CBI counsel to carry on with his line of questioning.

The hearing was deferred as court time was over at 4 pm. Vinod Kumar Budhiraja, chief regulatory officer of Etisalat DB Telecom official, was the third prosecution witness who was summoned today.

The court was adjourned till Monday (14 November).

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