The special court of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) at Patiala House in New Delhi on Saturday was enveloped in suspenseful and anxious silence minutes before judge OP Saini read the charges against the 14 accused in the 2G telecom spectrum case.
Packed to capacity, no one even spoke in whispers, waiting eagerly for the charges. But once Judge Saini started reading the operative part of the 456-page charges at 12:05pm, the faces of a few accused started turning sullen, while others remained nervous.
Former telecom minister A Raja, the prime accused in the case, seemed taken aback by the enormity of charges, which even call for life imprisonment, if found guilty, while fellow DMK party colleague and Rajya Sabha member Kanimozhi looked a bit confused.
Raja's counsel Sushil Kumar vehemently objected to the charges and declined even to say "not guilty" for a brief moment, while Kanimozhi looked a bit relaxed after another DMK leader TR Baalu explained the relatively leaner impact of charges against her.
Among the rest, the mother and wife of Swan Telecom's Shahid Usman Balwa started crying loud after he was charged with cheating with criminal intent, presenting false evidence, as also under the Prevention of Corruption Act with punishment for criminal conspiracy.
The three officials of Reliance Group also appeared calm and collect faced as they were with charges of abetment and cheating, while the counsels of others took objection to the veracity of the charges and said they will not plead guilty or otherwise.
Judge Saini advised the accused to affix their signatures on the relevant papers so that he could begin trial.
"Charges have been framed, read over and explained to each accused, to which they pleaded not guilty and claimed trial."
Once the counsels relented the judge fixed Nov 11 as the date for start of trial.
"Before that I will call the 28 witnesses for examination," he said, adding, none of the co-accused need to be present in the court before that unless the investigative agency makes a specifically request to that effect.
The charges were initially expected at 10 in the morning but the court staff said it was being postponed to 10:30am. This was again deferred to 11:30am and finally the charges were read out at 12:05pm.
For eight of the 14 accused, including Kanimozhi and the three Reliance Group officials, Monday is another crucial day.
Judge Saini will hear their bail applications. For the rest, lawyers said, they can move the courts again for bail.