Five corporate honchos, who have been named in the charge sheet in the 2G spectrum case, on Wednesday moved bail pleas in a Delhi court which asked the CBI to file its replies.
"The CBI is granted time to file reply and put up the matter for arguments on April 15," Special CBI Judge O P Saini said.
Top corporate executives -- Swan Telecom Director Vinod Goenka, Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu) Ltd Managing Director Sanjay Chandra, and three top officials of Reliance ADA Group Gautam Doshi, Surrendra Pipara and Hari Nair --appeared before the special court for the first time and sought bail on the ground that they were not arrested during the investigation.
"The accused are entitled for relief on bail," senior advocate Mukul Rohatagi, appearing for Vinod Goenka, said. Similar pleas were advanced by lawyers for other corporate honchos.
Senior advocate UU Lalit, who has been appointed as Special Public Prosecutor by the Supreme Court, vehemently opposed the applications, saying, "Accused are not entitled for release on bail ipso facto (by default) on appearance before the court. They will have to justify their bail pleas."
Citing legal provisions relating to the bail, Lalit said, "The suspects have now become accused after the filing of the charge sheet. Now it is between them and the court. The accused will have to justify their release on bail." Senior advocate KTS Tulsi, appearing for Unitech Wireless MD Sanjay Chandra, said, "Can the prosecution continue to change its stand? What is the change in circumstances except the change in public prosecutor.
"The accused who have not been arrested during the investigation are entitled to be released on bail on their appearance before the court of law," Tulsi said.
After the brief arguments, Lalit sought time to file replies to the bail applications of the accused. The plea was allowed by the court which fixed the matter for further hearing on April 15.
The CBI had filed its first charge sheet in the case on April 2 against nine persons and three leading Telecom companies --Reliance Telecom Ltd, Swan Telecom Ltd and Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu) Pvt Ltd.
The five corporate executives who were not arrested in the case, had been summoned by the special court, specifically set up to try the 2G scam accused, to appear before it today.
Former Telecom Minister A Raja, former Telecom Secretary Siddhartha Behura, Raja's personal secretary R K Chandolia and Swan Telecom Promoter Shahid Usman Balwa were arrested earlier during the probe into the case and are odged in Tihar Jail under judicial custody.
Special CBI Judge Saini has already taken cognisance of the charge sheet running into 80,000 pages after it was filed in his court on April 2.
The CBI had filed the charge sheet against them for allegedly committing offences of forgery and cheating under the Indian Penal Code and for offences of giving and accepting bribe and abusing official position under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The CBI has indicted Raja for conspiring with top bureaucrats, including a retired IAS officer, and corporate honchos to cause a loss of Rs 30,984 crore to the exchequer in allocation of the 2G spectrum.
The agency, in its first charge sheet, has alleged that Behura, Chandolia, Balwa and Chandra entered into a conspiracy for manipulating the procedure for allocation of spectrum with the aim of favouring companies like Swan Telecom and Unitech Group.
The CBI is likely to file its second charge sheet in the case by April 25 and is to complete its probe by May 31.