Jailed former communications minister A Raja, the prime accused in the 2G spectrum case, contended on Friday in a special court here that he will participate in the trial only when the CBI clearly explains whether it has completed its investigation against him.
Raja's lawyer Sushil Kumar has refused to file a reply to charges of criminal breach of public trust while asking the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) if the probe against him in the scam has been completed or not.
Raja's counsel told CBI special judge O P Saini that "till the agency declares that the investigation is closed, I will not argue before this court. I will participate in this trial only once the probe is over".
The probe agency on Sept 26 approached the court to frame fresh charges against the 17 accused, including Raja.
The probe agency asked the court for permission to frame charges for criminal breach of trust by a public servant against Raja, his former aide R K Chandolia, and former telecom secretary Siddartha Behura.
Criminal breach of trust is a non-bailable offence with punishment that stretches from 10 years to life.
The agency also pressed charges of criminal breach read with criminal conspiracy against the remaining 14 co-accused, including Raja's party colleague and DMK MP Kanimozhi. The other 14 co-accused include three companies.
Raja's co-accused in the case also made a plea for separate trial for charges related to criminal breach.
All the accused were supposed to file their reply Friday, but they sought 10 to 15 days' time to file their reply.
"I need time to respond to the CBI's fresh plea of imposing charges on our client. If we begin arguments it means fresh arguments on charge," said Ramesh Gupta.
The court said if time is granted, then "for this you all will take one year's time".
Raja's lawyer said these new charges were introduced after the CBI told a special court in Delhi that is handling the telecom case that it had completed its investigation against Raja and the others accused in the telecom scam -- most of whom are executives from large telecom companies.
The trial court had finished hearing the arguments for and against those imprisoned in the case and was scheduled to frame charges -- to effectively decide if those arrested would stand trial. The CBI's new charges delay that process; consequently, bail cannot be decided for the people in jail.
Raja's counsel also said that the CBI is playing with the court as over here they have said that it has completed its investigation in the FIR filed against all the accused.
"Before the Supreme Court, the same agency submitted that they are still investigating the case. They will file more FIRs and chargesheets in the case. Once they said here that they have concluded investigation in the case, then why they made such a submission before a superior bench," asked Kumar.
"They even said that they will produce more evidence in the case against the same accused. I cannot understand what the CBI wants to do," Kumar told the court.
"The position in the Supreme Court is very peculiar," said Kumar.
Annoyed over Kumar's submission, Judge Saini said he should not comment on the superior court over here.
However, special public prosecutor U.U. Lalit said: "I am only a prosecutor over here, in the Supreme Court, senior CBI counsel is arguing. So the situation is different there. I am with my stand, what I said here," he said.
Lalit further said Kumar should go to Supreme Court regarding the submission he made here.
To this, Raja's counsel said: "Let the CBI file an affidavit or say it on oath that investigation is complete or going on. Till then, I will not participate in the trial. The court may pass any order against my client (Raja)."
Raja is accused of selling mobile network licences and spectrum at throwaway prices to companies he favoured in 2008, when he was communications minister.
The court has given time till Oct 7 to all the 17 accused to reply to the additional charge.
Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi and top executives of several telecom companies have been arrested by the CBI in connection with the scam.