Former communications minister A Raja, who has been in jail since February 2011, was on Tuesday granted bail in the 2G spectrum allocation case but with the rider that he could neither visit the department of telecommunications (DoT) nor his home state Tamil Nadu.
Raja, the last of the 14 individuals charged in the case still in prison, was given bail by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special judge OP Saini.
"Considering the progress of the trial, period of custody of the accused and the fact that all other accused have been released on bail, I am of the opinion that further detention of the accused would not serve any purpose and, for these reasons, I am inclined to grant applicant (Raja) bail," the judge said.
He also directed that Raja could not visit the department of telecommunications or Tamil Nadu without the court's prior permission.
The announcement that Raja, who has been behind bars in the capital's Tihar Jail, was granted bail triggered wild slogan shouting and cheering by his DMK supporters, mainly from Tamil Nadu, who raised slogans in Tamil like: "Raja, vazhga!" (long live Raja!)
The DMK also expressed confidence that he would come out clean. Besides the 14 individuals, three companies were also charged in the case related to 2G spectrum licences allocated during his tenure as communications minister.
"We are happy. Getting bail is part of the legal process. We are confident that Raja will come out clean in the whole episode," DMK spokesperson TKS Elangovan said.
Giving details of what had transpired, Raja's counsel told reporters that the judge called Raja towards him and told him: "Your bail application is allowed."
"Raja had not moved bail until all other 13 were granted bail," he added. "Now all the accused are on bail. The case will go on."
The counsel pointed out that Raja had got bail despite the CBI's opposition.
The CBI had opposed Raja's bail application, saying he faced charges of accepting bribes of Rs 200 crore, which makes his case different from former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura, who was granted bail by the Supreme Court last week.
Raja, in his bail application, has requested the court to release him on the ground of parity.
The agency said that important prosecution witnesses of department of telecommunications and other private people, especially connected to alleged bribe transaction of Rs 200 crore from DB Group companies to Kalaignar TV, are yet to be examined.
It told the court that if the accused was released on bail at this crucial stage of trial, then he may influence the vital witnesses as some of them belong to Tamil Nadu.
Raja resigned as minister Nov 14, 2010 in the wake of the Comptroller and Auditor General reporting that his 2008 decision to allocate 2G spectrum on a first-come-first-served basis had caused the exchequer a presumptive loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore. The CBI arrested him Feb 2, 2011.
The Supreme Court in February cancelled 122 spectrum licences allocated during Raja's tenure. It also ruled that all natural resources should be allocated through an auction, which the government is now preparing to do in the case of the cancelled licences.
Charges against the accused:
A Raja: Criminal breach of trust by public servant, receipt of bribe, forgery and cheating. - Siddharth Behura: Criminal breach of trust by public servant, receipt
of bribe, forgery and cheating.
RK Chandolia: Criminal breach of trust by public servant, receipt of bribe, forgery and cheating.
CBI officials carry the 2G spectrum case charge sheet to a court in New Delhi. (Reuters)
Kanimozhi: Charged under Prevention of Coruption Act and punishment under criminal conspiracy.
Shahid Usman Balwa: Cheating with criminal conspiracy, presenting false evidence, and also charged under the Prevention of Coruption Act with punishment as for criminal conspiracy.
Vinod Goenka: Cheating with criminal conspiracy, presenting false evidence, and also charged under the Prevention of Coruption Act with punishment as for criminal conspiracy.
Rajeev Aggarwal: Presenting false evidence with punishment as for criminal conspiracy.
Sanjay Chandra: Cheating with criminal conspiracy.
Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair: Abetment and cheating in criminal conspiracy.
Asif Balwa: Presenting false evidence, also charged under the Prevention of Coruption Act with punishment under criminal conspiracy.
Karim Morani: Presenting false evidence, and also charged under the Prevention of Corruption Act with punishment as for criminal conspiracy.
Sharad Kumar: Presenting false evidence, and also charged under the Prevention of Coruption Act with punishment as for criminal conspiracy.
(Various agency inputs)