Maran’s phone line fraud just won’t go away
By EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE
Published: 13th Jan 2013 12:00:15 AM
More than six years since the then telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran got installed the fraudulent telephone exchange with 323 ISDN lines in 2006 in his home in Chennai in the name of the Chief General Manager of BSNL and smuggled the lines underground to operate it for commercial purposes of Sun TV, five years after the CBI had investigated the matter in 2007 and sought permission to act against the offender, more than 18 months after The New Indian Express exposed the scam in 2010, and almost a year since S Gurumurthy who exposed the scam in The New Indian Express met the then CBI director and also wrote to him, the daring fraud on the BSNL by the former minister has landed in the Supreme Court.
Gurumurthy has filed a petition under Article 32 of the Constitution to the Supreme Court alleging political intervention in the case and pleading that the Court must direct investigation and monitor it to bring the offenders to book. The court, consisting of Justices Aftab Alam and Ranjana Desai, issued notices to the CBI and BSNL on Friday asking them to respond to the petition. The facts of the scam brought out in the petition are telling.
The petition states that the following facts are established by the CBI, namely that 323 high speed telephone lines were stealthily installed in his home in Chennai when he was telecom minister functioning from Delhi; that the installation of 323 lines “was programmed in such a way that no one other than the authorised BSNL staff were aware of the existence of such an exchange created for his exclusive use”, which showed the secret and clandestine nature of the fraud; that all the lines were fraudulently shown in the name of the General Manager of BSNL at Chennai to disguise their use as official; that entire set of lines were connected underground cable laid from Maran’s home to Sun TV Network, family concern of Maran, and were used for business purposes. The CBI’s preliminary report says that by an arrangement to make it appear that all the lines were used in the residence of the former minister, actually the cable laid facilitated Sun TV Network to use the lines in his home. The petition also points out that the total loss for the fraudulent lines is estimated at Rs 440 crore.
The petition further states that an official of the CBI had inquired into the fraud and sent his report to the telecom secretary in September 2007, disclosing the complete details of the 323 fraudulently installed lines and estimating the loss involved, but the Central Government and the CBI too have deliberately ignored and colluded in suppressing the said report and fraud and did not act upon it then or later till now. The petition states that the scam was made public by the exposes in The New Indian Express dated 2nd, 4th , 5th and 9th June, 2011.
The petition states that Maran was caught lying when he responded to the exposes first by saying that he had had only two lines and not 323 lines. To prove Maran’s lie of two lines story, The New Indian Express published the shocking details of the BSNL file notes which disclosed that, in June 2007, an attempt was made even to suppress the very existence of the 323 lines, the very evidence of the fraud. But it did not happen for the fortuitous reason that, after he ceased to be the minister of telecom in May 2007, two of the 323 numbers, namely nos. 24371515 and 24371616, probably as lucky numbers, and the said numbers fell among the 300 fraudulent lines, which left the trace and proof of the entire fraud.
The petition points out that Maran threatened The New Indian Express with legal action for Rs 10 crore damages but did not dare proceed with his threat, even after the newspaper challenged him to sue by a further article titled ‘Welcome Mr Maran’. The petition says that the report of the CBI also indicates that similar clandestine lines have been provided at the office of Dinakaran, a Tamil daily of Sun TV Network at Madurai. The petition says that it is an “open and shut” case of corruption and criminal misconduct under the anti-corruption law. Finding that no action was taken for 10 months after the exposure, the Petitioner wrote to the Director CBI, having met him earlier, on 15.2.2012 urging action. Yet till today the CBI has remained deafeningly silent. The court has now directed the CBI and BSNL to respond to the notice.