Maran Bros, Others To Face Trial In Telephone Exchange Case; Madras HC [Read Order]

Maran Bros, Others To Face Trial In Telephone Exchange Case; Madras HC [Read Order]

Former Union Minister Dayanidhi Maran, his brother Kalanithi Maran and five others will now face trial in the BSNL illegal telephone exchange case with the Madras High Court setting aside the order of Special CBI court which had discharged them in March.

Justice G Jayachandran allowed a revision petition filed by the CBI, which argued that in this case even though materials are adequately enough to frame charges against the accused, the trial court discharged them for extraneous consideration and that the order of discharge was passed without testing the evidence placed before the court.

While setting aside the lower court order, the high court said, “Considering the police report and the documents, only opinion any judicial mind could form is that there are grounds to presume all the 7 accused have committed offence and not otherwise,” and directed the trial court to frame charges and complete the trial within 12 months.

On a senior defence counsel submitting that while the Defence Minister is permitted to enjoy exclusive Air Force Aircraft for her journey and Railway Minster exclusive saloon for his travel in the train, why could not the Minister for Telecommunication have an exclusive exchange.

“To this argument, the logical answer could be, ‘Yes, if law permits.’ The corollary will be, if law does not permit, they are liable for prosecution. It is amply shown in this case that law does not permit to have the facilities enjoyed by the accused under service category, hence they are liable for prosecution,” said Justice Jayachandran.

Maran can’t claim privilege for popularising broadband

Another senior counsel submitted that the man who had brought the broadband facility to every corner of the country is now haunted by the CBI for political reasons.

To this, the court said, “For sake of rhetoric one may make such submissions, but the records before us speak otherwise. A-3 [Dayanidhi Maran] by virtue of the office, might have been instrumental for popularising broadband facility. It does not mean that he can claim privilege of unlimited usage of that facility for him, for his brother and his business establishment free of costs.

“In a democratic country, an elected representative can never think like that. Nor the judicial system tolerate and entertain such thought”.

After going through the trial court record, the high court said, “This Court is fully satisfied that heaps and heaps of material are available to frame charge against all the accused. None of the reasons given by the trial Court to discharge them is sustainable under law. The trial Court had treated petitions for discharge as a case for appreciating evidence with the decree of proof beyond reasonable doubt. He had totally forgotten the fact that he should only weigh the probability of the case for framing”.

On the trial court taking note of want of sanction to prosecute Maran, Justice Jayachandran said, “This Court is forced to mention at this juncture, nowhere in the charge sheet (final report), this Court could find that the prosecution has averred that A-3 committed offence while discharging his official duties or any material to infer the offence was committed while discharging official duty”.

It is CBI’s case that Dayanidhi Maran, while he was the Minister for Communication and Information Technology (MOC&IT) in the Government of India from 2004 to 2007, abused and misused his office in connivance with the other accused—Brahamadathan, MP Velusamy (both senior officials of BSNL), private secretary V Vedagiri Gowtham, electrician KS Ravi and S Kannan, Chief Technical Officer of Sun TV Network Limited, and his brother Kalanithi Maran, chairman and managing director  of Sun TV Network Limited.

Maran had obtained a pecuniary advantage and caused the exchequer a loss of Rs 1.78 crores by installing a private telephone exchange at his residences in Boat Club and Gopalapuram in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, which he used for business transactions involving the Sun Network. More than 700 high-end telecom lines, having PRA/BRA/ISDN/leased line, were installed at Dayanidhi’s residences in the Boat Club area and Gopalapuram under the service category and bills were not raised for its utilisation.

Besides, illegal installation of landlines with ISDN facilities, on the instruction of Dayanidhi Maran, additional SIM cards for use of mobile phones with fancy numbers were blocked for Sun TV and distributed to private individuals connected with the TV Network.

Read the Order Here