New Delhi: The promoters of Essar Group and Loop Telecom were among the five persons who were directed to appear on January 27 before a Delhi Court which on Wednesday took cognizance of the CBI chargesheet arising out of the probe in the 2G scam case against them.

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"I have carefully gone through the copy of the FIR, supplementary chargesheet, statement of witnesses and related documents. On the basis of material on record, I am satisfied there is enough incriminating material on record to proceed against the accused," Special CBI Judge O P Saini said.

Essar Group promoters Anshuman and Ravi Ruia along with Loop Telecom promoters Kiran Khaitan, her husband I P Khaitan and Essar Group director (Strategy and Planning) Vikash Saraf and three companies -- Loop Telecom Pvt Ltd, Loop Mobile India Ltd and Essar Tele Holding -- are named as accused in the third chargesheet.

The court said the three companies will stand the trial either through their Directors or they will appoint their representatives for the purpose.

"Three companies be served through their directors and the companies may appoint authorised representatives for the purpose of trial," the judge said while making it clear that though charges are not slapped under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), the accused will face trial in the Designated court set up on the order of the Supreme Court.

However, Essar Group in a statement, expressed "surprise" that the special court has taken cognizance of the matter even though there is no charge of corruption made by the CBI.

The Group said it will take "further legal recourse to defend its position" as "it has been advised that the special court has no jurisdiction in matters where no corruption charges have been alleged".

The judge said the accused, charged with offence of conspiracy and cheating under the IPC, will still have to stand the trial before the Designated Court in accordance with the March 28, 2011 notification by the Delhi Government setting up a special court to deal exclusively with cases pertaining to the 2G scam following the Supreme Court order.

The CBI, in its charge sheet filed on December 12, has accused the Essar and Loop promoters of conspiring to cheat the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) but has not found evidence to prosecute them under the PCA.

It said "investigation has not revealed evidence to prove mala-fide on the part of public servants in the matter."

Essar Group, in a statement on December 12, had denied any involvement in the 2G scam and said it has complied in totality with all conditions of telecom licences. It claimed that the CBI has confirmed that Essar was not involved in the 2G scam.

The CBI has said that the accused persons and companies created a "complex corporate veil" to cheat DoT by concealing that Essar, an existing telecom operator having substantial shares in Vodafone (then Hutch), was having more than 10 per cent stake in Loop Telecom.

Special Public Prosecutor U U Lalit had said UAS Licence guidelines bar an existing telecom operator from holding 10 percent or more equity in another telecom company in same circle and, therefore, Loop was ineligible for the licences as it was an "alter ego of Essar which is an existing operator".

CBI had said the probe revealed that Loop was actually and completely controlled by Essar.

The Essar Group and Loop promoters have been charged with cheating the DoT by using Loop Telecom as a "front" to secure 2G licenses in 2008.

Essar Group, however, has contended that they have not been holding nearly or over 10 per cent stake in the Loop Telecom and its stake was only 2.15 percent and there was no violation of clause 8 of the Unified Access Services Licences (UASL) guidelines.

The CBI said like Reliance Telecom and Unitech Ltd, other two accused firms, no evidence was found to prosecute Essar and Loop for their involvement in any "quid pro quo" in lieu of grant of licenses.

Besides the fresh set of eight accused, CBI had earlier filed two charge sheets against 17 accused including three companies -- Reliance Telecom Ltd, Swan Telecom and Unitech Ltd.

In the last two charge sheets, CBI had named former Telecom Minister A Raja, his Private Secretary R K Chandolia, former Telecom Secretary Siddharth Behura, DMK MP Kanimozhi and DMK-run Kalaignar TV's Managing Director Sharad Kumar.

The agency had also issued chargesheets to six corporate honchos - Reliance ADAG Group Managing Director Gautam Doshi, its senior Vice President Hari Nair, Group President Surendra Pipara, Swan Telecom Promoters Shahid Usman Balwa and Vinod Goenka and Managing Director of Unitech Ltd Sanjay Chandra.

The others, named in the chargesheet were Bollywood producer Karim Morani, directors of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Ltd Asif Balwa and Rajiv Aggarwal. The trial began on November 11.

All the 17 have been charged under various provisions of the IPC for criminal breach of trust, conspiracy, cheating, forgery and the Prevention of Corruption Act. Barring Raja and
Behura, all are out on bail.

Essar questions court jurisdiction

Essar Group on Wednesday said the special 2G court had no jurisdiction in taking cognisance of the CBI chargesheet filed against its five officials and three companies, and said it would be taking legal recourse in this regard.

The company said in a statement that it has been "advised that the special court has no jurisdiction in matters where no corruption charges have been alleged. Essar will take further legal recourse to defend its position."

The chargesheet has been filed under 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 420 (cheating). The company denied all charges against saying it is a law abiding corporate in full compliance with all Unified Access Service Licence (UASL) provisions.

It also said it has full faith in the judiciary and will take all possible steps available to in law to protect its reputation.

HC refuses to hear plea on spectrum

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday refused to entertain a PIL challenging the allocation of 2G spectrum beyond the entry level of 4.4 MHz and 6.2 MHz by government to telecom companies without charging additional fee.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice A K Sikri and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw refused to hear the petition saying the Supreme Court is monitoring a case relating to the grant of 2G licences and, moreover, the trial was also on.

"The subject matter of this petition is also the subject matter of the matter being heard by the Supreme Court," the bench said, adding that "if we (High Court) entertain (this plea) then there would be so much overlapping".

The court brushed aside the contention of the petitioner, advocate Yakesh Anand, that the substance of the case being monitored by the Apex Court is different.

Anand, in his petition, said that the scarce resource of spectrum was "illegally" distributed to telecom operators without charging any spectrum fee since 1996, which has caused a loss to the tune of around Rs 37,000 crore to the exchequer.

The petition said that a maximum of 4.4 MHz spectrum could be allotted to telecom operators awarded licence in 1994-95 and 6.2 MHz to those awarded licence after 2001 against the payment of entry fee and grant of spectrum beyond that had to be charged.

The petition alleged that the DoT "distributed spectrum to the private operators in an illegal way in violation of National Telecom Policy of 1999, and licence conditions."

The PIL said the telcom policy required charging of extra fee for additional spectrum. However, the DoT went ahead to allocate additional spectrum "arbitrarily and illegally" without any criteria or notification, it alleged.

It added that the DoT neither sought recommendation from TRAI nor any approval from the Full Telecom Commission.

(JPN/Agencies)