New Delhi, Feb 14 (IANS) A Delhi court Monday extended the CBI custody of former communications minister Amdimuthu Raja and Shahid Usman Balwa, managing director of DB Realty, respectively by three and four days, in the spectrum allocation scandal. They have been accused of cheating and forgery.
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Special Judge O.P. Saini said: “The crime is enormous in nature and its investigation is time consuming. Accordingly, considering the enormity of the crime, complex and complicated nature of investigation, voluminous documents involved in the case, I find that further custodial interrogation of the accused is justified.”
“A. Raja is remanded to police custody till Feb 17, and Balwa is remanded till Feb 18,” the court said.
“I have carefully gone through the case diaries and the statements recorded during investigation. The accused have caused huge loss to the state exchequer in the allotment of unified access services licences and the estimated loss to the state exchequer in the instant case is about Rs.22,000 crore,” the court said.
Raja and Balwa were both remanded in four days’ CBI custody by the court Feb 10 to enable the probe agency quiz them to “unearth the conspiracy” in the scandal.
According to the CBI, Balwa’s company Swan Telecom (a part of the Mumbai-based DB Realty) allegedly got favours in the spectrum allocation and caused the national exchequer a loss of over Rs.22,000 crore.
During the hearing on its plea for extension of the remand for Raja and Balwa, the CBI said the duo needed to be confronted with some more documents recovered by it.
“They (Raja and Balwa) are further required to be put under sustained custodial interrogation and confronted with each other on the trail of money as well as with other suspects and witnesses so that the real facts and elements of criminal conspiracy, including omission and commission committed in this case, can be unearthed,” the CBI said in its application.
The CBI had sought Raja’s custody for two days but the court gave the agency his custody for three days. This followed Raja’s counsel pointing out to the judge that it will be a national holiday on account of Milad-un-Nabi Feb 16.
Opposing the CBI’s plea for extension of Balwa’s custody, counsel Vijay Aggarwal argued that his client was engaged in bonafide commercial transactions and had not violated any law.
“The CBI has not put forward any specific evidence (of Balwa’s criminal culpability) for seeking extension of his remand and has made only a general statement without any substance,” Aggarwal said, adding that no new facts came on record during his interrogation and the prayer for extension of CBI custody was not justified.
The CBI, however, pointed out to the court that the agency had added two more sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) relating to cheating and forgery in the case against the accused.
“While investigation is in progress, things are coming to light and so sections 420 (cheating) and 468 (forgery) of the IPC have been added,” said Senior Public Prosecutor Akhilesh, appearing for the CBI.
While seeking an extension of the custody, the CBI said the case was “complicated and highly technical”.
“It is an important case. Vastness of the documents and ramifications of this case are wide, so we need further custodial interrogation of the accused,” the CBI said.
With the court remanding Raja to three more days in the CBI’s custody, the former minister will be completing the maximum number of 14 days for which any investigating agency can keep an accused in its custody for questioning.
Raja was arrested Feb 2 and remanded in CBI custody initially for five days.
On Feb 8, his reman was extended for two more days after the agency told the court that he was not cooperating during questioning and was being evasive.
Balwa was brought to Delhi Wednesday evening by a CBI team after a Mumbai court granted the agency his two-day transit remand. He was arrested in Mumbai late Tuesday.
The former minister’s custody was earlier extended by two more days Feb 10 on the CBI’s plea.
On Feb 8, former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura and Raja`s former personal secretary R.K. Chandolia, were sent to 14 days of judicial custody.