NEW DELHI: Swan Telecom Promoter Shahid Usman Balwa, facing trial in the 2G spectrum case, today told special CBI court that it was protecting former Telecom Secretary D S Mathur, a key witness in the case.
Balwa's counsel alleged Mathur was protected by the court as he was not allowed to cross-examine Mathur, who is one of the star witnesses named by the CBI to prove its case.
"The court is protecting the witness (Mathur). You (Judge) are not allowing me to ask questions. This is our right and we can ask questions to the witnesses during cross examination," Senior advocate R N Mittal told Special CBI Judge O P Saini.
The lawyer had got irked after the judge disallowed one of his questions relating to Mathur's statement made in the court on April 9.
Mathur, on the following day, had told the court that he had made a "mistake" while recording his statement on April 9 and had subsequently corrected it.
On sudden outburst by the defence counsel today, the judge told Mittal that his question was disallowed as it was "irrelevant".
"This question has already been asked. Who is protecting the witness?," the judge asked him.
To this, Mittal told the judge that he had always protected Mathur and had not permitted the defence lawyers to ask questions to him.
"You (judge) are always trying to protect this (Mathur) witness. This (accused asking questions from witness) is permissible in law and I (as a defence counsel) could ask questions to the witness. Why are you (judge) shouting at us (defence counsel) all the time?" Mittal retorted.
The judge brushed aside the allegations by Balwa's counsel and said, "Who is shouting? It is you (Mittal) who is shouting. No one is protecting the witness."
Mittal, however, pacified the judge and told him that he was asking the question as it was important for the case.
"Please allow me to ask the question. You (judge) will realise what I am asking is important as the witness realised about his mistake (on April 10 about his statement recorded on April 9) but who told him to do so? Is the prosecutor or the CBI officers told him to do so? Please do not interfere when we (defence counsel) are asking questions," he said.
At this, Mathur said he did not realise his mistake when he signed his statement in the court on April 9 but he realised it later and subsequently told it to the judge on the next date.
During Mathur's cross-examination, Unitech Ltd MD Sanjay Chandra's counsel raised objections saying that the prosecutor was "answering" the questions for the witness.
"The prosecutor should not answer for the witness. I am seeing this for the last five days. This is not permissible. I am asking questions to the witness and only he should answer it. The prosecutor should not answer the questions," advocate Rebecca John said.
Prosecutor A K Singh, however, denied the allegations and said he was just saying that the question put up to the witness by the counsel was not correct.
During the cross examination, Mathur today told the court that former Telecom Minister A Raja, the key accused in the case, had fixed the cut-off date for receiving new applications for 2G licences and it was an administrative decision.
"It is wrong to suggest that the then Minister A Raja did not change, revise or alter the cut-off date. The decision of the minister was an administrative decision.
"It is wrong to suggest that the minister did not fix any cut-off date and he merely approved processing of applications received up to September 25, 2007," he said.
Mathur, whose recording of statement would continue tomorrow, deposed that the proposal to have a cut-off date for receiving new applications for Unified Access Service Licences (UASL) was initiated by A K Srivastava, a senior Department of Telecom (DoT) official, on September 24, 2007 and being the telecom seceratary at that time, he had agreed to it.
The CBI had alleged that Raja, in collusion with others, had decided to keep September 25, 2007 as the cut-off date for considering applications for UASL to "wrongly benefit" Unitech Ltd MD Sanjay Chandra and Swan Telecom promoters Shahid Balwa and Vinod Goenka -- all facing trial in the case.
During his cross-examination, Mathur denied the allegations that he was "evasive" in replying to the questions of the defence counsel.
"It is wrong to suggest that I was evasive in my replies when I stated that I do not remember or I do not know with a view to avoid my implication in the case or not to harm the interest of prosecution," he said.