The Delhi High Court will rule April 26 on the bail pleas of the five company executives co-accused in the second generation (2G) telecom spectrum case, sent to 14-day judicial custody by a lower court on Wednesday.
Justice Ajit Bharihoke on Thursday heard for three hours the arguments furnished by counsel for the five accused -- Vinod Goenka of Swan Telecom, Sanjay Chandra of Unitech and three officials of Anil Ambani Group: Gautam Doshi, Hari Nair and Surendra Pipara.
After also taking into account the observations of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as to why the high court should not reverse the verdict of the special court, Justice Bharihoke said he will give his verdict post-lunch April 26.
"Before that, give me a page each highlighting your arguments by Monday," he said.
Counsel argued that the main issues on the basis of which their clients' bail pleas were rejected -- that they may tamper with evidence, flee the country, possession of incriminating evidence and the serious nature of the case -- did not hold any water.
They said in the past two-and-a-half years, their clients had not only cooperated fully with probe officials, but also did not flee the country. Nor was any complaint lodged that they had tried to influence the witnesses or tampered with evidence.
"Was the trial court's rejection of the bail pleas on these points valid," asked Soli Sorabjee, a senior counsel and India's former solicitor general and attorney general, who represented Doshi.
"A person's liberty can't be denied on mere apprehensions," Sorabjee added.
"The trial court has said this case is of serious magnitude. But it does not arise for my client. This is a matter of economic offence. He can't be kept behind bars just because the probe agency wants to," said Ranjit Kumar, who also represented Doshi.
"If the probe agency gets some pleasure in keeping my client, it can do so. But for a fair trial, in view of 80,000 pages of chargesheet and 600 pages added later, I need to regularly interact with my client. But this I can't if he remains behind bars."
On behalf of Pipara, counsel N.K. Kaul requested early bail on the plea that his client was a cardic patient and his kidneys were not functioning properly. Justice Bharihoke directed the jail authorities to provide proper medicine and care.
Nair's lawyer said his client was a mere "cog in the wheel."
Counsel Mukul Rohatgi asked how Sawn Telecom that had thousands of employees and crores in loans would function, since two key people, including his client Goenka, were in the custody of the law agencies. Counsel KTS Tulsi made a similar plea for Chandra.
The special court of the CBI, presided over by Judge OP Saini, had Wednesday ordered a 14-day judicial custody to them, rejecting first their bail pleas and then requests for interim relief to be able to approach a higher court.
The accused spent the night at Tihar Jail.
The premier investigative agency had named them co-accused, along with former telecom minister A. Raja, his personal aide R.K. Chandolia, former telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura and Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Balwa.
These four are already in judicial custody.
The case had taken a serious turn after Raja, a leader of the DMK, resigned Nov 14 as telecom minister after the official auditor held that his policy on spectrum allocation had led to a loss of several billion dollars to the exchequer.
While the former minister was arrested by the probe agency in the national capital Feb 2, along with Behura and Chandolia, Swan Telecom promoter Balwa was arrested from Pune on Feb 8.
Raja, his aide and officials from the Department of Telecom (DoT) face charges for their roles in the award of scarce radio frequency. The former minister also faces charges of forgery, while Chandolia and Behura have been accused of misusing their official positions.