2G spectrum verdict: How A Raja refused to remain silent, stood for his own defence
In the 2G spectrum case hearing, DMK’s A Raja and his then private secretary RK Chandolia presented themselves as witnesses in their defence, forgoing their constitutional right to remain silent.Updated: Dec 21, 2017 23:09 IST
A calculated risk taken by of two of the 2G scam accused — former telecom minister A Raja and his then private secretary RK Chandolia — appears to have paid off with their acquittal by a special court, the lawyer for some of the accused said on Thursday.
Both of them decided to present themselves as witnesses in their defence, forgoing their constitutional right to remain silent.
Special court judge OP Saini acquitted the former telecom minister and 34 other politicians, business executives and companies for “lack of evidence” in three separate cases related to one of the country’s biggest corruption scandals.
“It was risky...though the move gave them an opportunity to defend themselves but also exposed them to cross-examination by the CBI lawyers,” said advocate Vijay Aggarwal who represented Chandolia, besides three other accused — Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Balwa, his brother Asif Balwa and Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables owner Rajiv Aggarwal.
One false word, one slip of tongue could have nailed them, Aggarwal said.
“My client was giving testimony under oath as a witness in the court on his own. He could not take even a word back from it,” added Aggarwal, who engineered the move in the case of Chandolia.
An accused is allowed to stand as a witness under section 315 of the Criminal Procedure Code but is rarely used.
“But I was very certain about the abilities of my client who is an intelligent person. During deposition, my client managed to bring out all the facts crucial to his defence in the case,” said Aggarwal, who also represented five accused in a separate case mounted by Enforcement Directorate in connection with the 2G scam.
Court documents assessed by HT show how the accused successfully negotiated cross-examination by CBI lawyers.
The CBI alleged that Raja and Chandolia used to frequently meet two other accused — Swan promoter Shahid Balwa and Unitech promoter Sanjay Chandra. But Raja and Chandolia managed to fight the charge as defence witnesses.
For example, when the CBI lawyers asked Chandolia in cross-examination that he knew Balwa and Chandra since the days when Raja was the minister of environment and forest and he was the private secretary.
Chandolia: “It is wrong to suggest that I know Shahid Usman Balwa, Vinod Goenka and Sanjay Chandra, since the days of my posting in ministry of environment and forests. It is wrong to suggest that these three persons used to meet me either in the ministry of environment and forests in connection with environmental clearances for their projects or at the camp office of the minister. I do not know if these three persons used to meet A Raja or not during his tenure in this ministry or at his camp office. It is wrong to suggest that I know that A. Raja had cleared projects of DB group and Unitech group during his tenure as minister for environment and forests.”
Raja, who holds a law degree, also denied frequent meetings with other accused as recorded during his cross-examination.
CBI lawyer: Have you ever met Sanjay Chandra at your residence?
Raja: I do not recollect specifically if Sanjay Chandra met me at my residence. Had it been so, it should have been reflected in the chart and the entries maintained by the security forces.
CBI lawyer: Did you ever meet Vinod Goenka at your residence or office?
Raja: I do not recollect specifically if Vinod Goenka met me at my residence or office. Had it been so, it should have been reflected in the chart and the entries maintained by the security forces.
CBI lawyer: Did you ever meet Shahid Usman Balwa at your residence or office?
Raja: I do not recollect specifically if Shahid Usman Balwa met me at my residence or office. Had it been so, it should have been reflected in the chart and the entries maintained by the security forces.
Since the CBI did not file any documentary evidence to support the charge of frequent meetings between the accused, the judge refused to believe the agency claims.
A relieved Aggarwal said on Thursday that truth has prevailed, though the investigating agency tried to conceal it with four lakh documents.
“The CBI wanted to bury the accused and their lawyers under heaps of documents thinking that the truth will get concealed in between them but the judge has very beautifully observed in the order that the charge sheet is based mainly on misreading selective reading and non-reading and out of context reading of official record,” said Aggarwal, who was assisted by 20 lawyers.
“When star witnesses of CBI such as telecom department official AK Srivastava and A Raja’s former additional private secretary Aseervatham Achary started collapsing under tough cross-examination by defence lawyers, it gave us hope of securing the acquittal of the accused,” Aggarwal added.