NEW DELHI:The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the Madras High Court order cancelling the bail to former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran in the telephone exchange scam and restrained the CBI from questioning him in custody.
A bench headed by Justice T S Thakur sought the CBI’s response on Maran’s plea and questioned its intention to arrest him in a case registered in 2013 in which high-ranking officials of the telecom department were arrested. “What were you doing for the last two years? Why have you not arrested BSNL officials... Political vendetta should not come in the picture,” the judges said.
“All types of things are happening in the realms of politics. This is not something which is shocking the conscience,” the bench said and referred to the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) scam of Rs 8,000 crore in Uttar Pradesh in which not a single arrest has been made. “This is not something where you need to arrest a person. In UP, Rs 8,000 crore went down the drain. Not a single person out of around 200 involved has been arrested. Why do you want him in custody?”
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the CBI, said the custodial interrogation of Maran, who was telecom minister during the UPA-I regime, was necessary to unearth the entire conspiracy in which the chief GM of BSNL in Chennai was allegedly involved.
Rohatgi said it was a huge corruption case as the telephone lines installed at Maran’s Chennai residence were used for commercial purposes by Sun TV, owned by his brother Kalanithi Maran. The AG said, “Maran used his clout in government to fix lines for use of the huge media house Sun TV that his family runs.”
Maran got telephone lines installed at his residence and they were exclusively used by the Sun TV network for commercial purposes. The court expressed concern over the appearance of the AG in the matter of interim bail and said, “The AG is opposing the interim bail. It is a case of telephone misuse by some person who was in office for sometime. All that could have been done was to ask the officers who had laid the telephone lines. You assess the loss. Why do you need him in custody? You give him questionnaire to answer. Is it a matter of prestige for you to arrest him? Nobody should get away after causing public loss... But custodial interrogation?”
“How did you assess the loss? You say no bills were raised. Anyway he is willing to pay. You raise the bill now and he will pay up,” the bench added. Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for Maran, said, “There is no criminality in this case, only monetary claim. We will pay if any dues.”
The bench adjoined the matter for September 14.