The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted protection to former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran from arrest till September 14 in the illegal telephone exchange case, while asking the CBI to respond to his anticipatory bail plea.
A three-judge bench headed by justice T S Thakur sought CBI's response on Maran's plea and questioned its decision to arrest him in the case registered in 2013.
"What were you doing for the last two years. Why you have not arrested BSNL officials... Political vendetta should not come in the picture. Less said, the better," the bench said.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for CBI, then referred to the facts of the case to stress that it was a huge corruption case as the telephone lines installed at Maran's residence were used for commercial purposes by their electronic media conglomerate SUN TV.
"If these corrupt actions are not covered, then what for there is Prevention of Corruption Act," Rohatgi said.
Maran, in his tenure as telecom minister got telephone lines installed at his Chennai residence and they were exclusively used by the SUN TV network for commercial purposes and prima facie estimates shows that a loss of Rs 1.20 crore had been caused to the state exchequer, he said.
The bench, which initially posed tough questions to Maran's counsel, later turned the heat on CBI and questioned its insistence on custodial interrogation.
The bench then referred to the NRHM scam in Uttar Pradesh and said, "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 has been arrested... Why do you want him in custody?"
Rohatgi sought some time to respond to certain queries raised by the bench which fixed the matter for hearing on September 14 and asked the probe agency to file its response within two weeks from Wednesday.
The Madras high court had recently cancelled Maran's interim bail in the illegal telephone exchange case after the CBI said he was not cooperating in the investigation.
The court had directed the former DMK minister to surrender before the CBI within three days.
“Failing which, the CBI is at liberty to take action in accordance with law,” said Justice S Vaidhyananthan, quashing Maran’s appeal to the court to turn the interim bail into a permanent one.
The CBI has registered an FIR against Maran alleging that more than 300 high-speed telephone lines were set up at his Chennai residence when he was telecom minister from 2004-07 and these were extended to his brother Kalanithi Maran’s SUN TV channel. In the process, the exchequer lost an estimated Rs 1.8 crore, the case papers say.
Fearing arrest, Maran sought anticipatory bail on June 30 and it was for six weeks on the condition that he appeared before the CBI on July 1 and cooperated with the investigators.
(With inputs from PTI)