Court slams Maran brothers

The Madras High Court on Wednesday said it would be open to a special court for CBI cases in Chennai to remand to judicial custody former Union Telecommunications Minister Dayanidhi Maran and his elder brother Kalanithi Maran of Sun TV Network if they adopt any more dilatory tactics in the illegal BSNL telephone exchange case.

Justice N. Anand Venkatesh of the High Court also criticised the Maran brothers, as well as three other co-accused, for having initiated several rounds of litigations before the High Court as well as the Supreme Court in order to ensure that the proceedings before the special court do not cross the beginning stage of framing of charges.

“The petitioners have consumed sufficient judicial time of this court and this is the third time this court is called upon to interfere with the proceedings of the trial court at the stage of framing of charges. This court cannot interfere with the proceedings of the trial court at each and every step,” the judge said and directed the special court to complete the trial within four months.

“In a case where the prosecution has levelled allegations bringing out all ingredients of the charges levelled and have placed material before the court, prima facie evidencing the truthfulness of the allegations levelled, trial must be heldBut the petitioners do not want to face a trial and establish their defence in accordance with law,” the judge remarked.

Satisfied that the trial court had followed all necessary procedures while framing charges in the case, Justice Venkatesh said: “If the petitioners are confident enough that they have a strong case for defence and none of the charges framed by the court below can be sustained by the prosecution, they must willingly go ahead facing the trial and get an honourable acquittal.”

Prosecution’s case

The case of the prosecution was that the former Minister had abused and misused his office when he was holding the post between 2004 and 2007, in connivance with six other accused and caused a loss of ₹1.78 crore to the public exchequer by installing a private telephone exchange at his Boat Club and Gopalapuram residences in Chennai.

It was alleged that more than 700 high-end telecommunication lines of BSNL were installed in the residences and they were used for business transactions of Sun TV Network. Apart from the illegal installation of landlines with ISDN facilities, the CBI also claimed that many SIM cards with fancy mobile phone numbers were distributed to people connected with Sun TV.

The special court had initially discharged all seven accused from the case on March 14 last year. However, on a revision petition preferred by the CBI, Justice G. Jayachandran of the High Court set aside the discharge order on July 25 and directed the accused to face trial. The High Court’s order was subsequently confirmed by the Supreme Court.

Thereafter, the petitioners moved the High Court challenging the charges framed against them and Justice A.D. Jagadish Chandira dismissed those petitions on November 9 with a direction to the special court to frame proper charges against individual accused instead of framing common charges. This order too got confirmed by the Supreme Court.

Once again when the special court began framing charges against the individual accused, they approached the High Court seeking a direction to the trial court to permit their counsel to make submissions at the time of framing charges. Justice Venkatesh rejected the plea on January 29 this year and said that only the accused could be allowed make submissions.

Subsequently, the trial court framed the charges on February 1 and yet again the accused had approached the High Court with the present petitions challenging such action. Observing that “the entire attempt of the petitioners seems to be to again conduct the case as if this court is considering their case for discharge,” Justice Venkatesh dismissed the present petitions as devoid of merits.

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