Bharti Group chairman Sunil Mittal and Essar’s vice-chairman Ravi Ruia got a major relief...
Bharti Group chairman Sunil Mittal and Essar’s vice-chairman Ravi Ruia got a major relief on Friday as the Supreme Court set aside a lower court’s order summoning them as accused in the excess spectrum allotment case of 2002 when the NDA government was in power.
The duo had pleaded that since the Central Bureau of Investigation had not named them as accused in the charge sheet filed before the special court probing the 2G spectrum allocation case, it was wrong for the court to summon them as accused.
Concurring with their plea, a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu said that the trial court applied the legal principle wrongly in summoning the duo. The bench, however clarified that they could be summoned as accused as and when substantial evidence against them surfaces, as envisaged under the criminal law.
Welcoming the judgment, the Essar Group said that “the judgment re-establishes that the directors and the shareholders cannot be made vicariously liable in criminal matters… The judgment will assuage concerns among corporate leaders regarding misuse of judicial process. It will help re-instil confidence among investors and corporates, especially at a time when India is looking to attract fresh investments and increase growth.”
While Mittal and Ruia’s names were not in the CBI’s charge sheet as accused, special CBI judge OP Saini had in March 2013 summoned them stating that there was enough material to proceed against them. Besides the three, the court had also summoned as accused former telecom secretary Shyamal Ghosh and three telecom firms: Bharti Cellular, Hutchison Max Telecom (now known as Vodafone India) and Sterling Cellular (now known as Vodafone Mobile Service).
The CBI charge sheet had only named the companies as accused and not any of its executives.
The apex court had in December 2010 ordered the CBI probe the allocation of 2G spectrum between 2001 and 2008. Mittal and Ruia had appeared before the trial court on April 16 in pursuance to the apex court’s earlier order and also furnished personal bonds which were accepted by the special CBI court.