SC reserves verdict on Mittal, Ruia’s plea challenging 2G summons

New Delhi : The Supreme Court Thursday reserved its verdict on the plea by Sunil Bharti Mittal of Bharti Airtel and Ravikant Ruia of Essar challenging their being summoned to appear before 2G special court in connection with excess spectrum allocation scam during BJP led NDA regime in 2002.

A bench of Chief Justice H.L.Dattu, Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice A.K.Sikri reserved order on the conclusion of arguments by senior counsel Fali Nariman who contended that there was no concept of vicarious liability in criminal law and the alleged criminal acts attributed to a company could not be laid at the doors of the managing director.

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Nariman said that the acts of an individual who is the driving mind of a company can be attributed to the company and not the other way round.

The court was also told that any attempt to link Airtel IPO of January 2002 with the then government decision to allocate additional spectrum was misplaced. Nariman said that the said decision was pursued even after change of guards in the communications ministry with Arun Shourie replacing Pramod Mahajan and the change of government with UPA coming to power in 2004.

Bharti Airtel’s IPO was launched on Jan 28, 2002, and was oversubscribed within three days and the decision to allocate additional spectrum was taken Jan 31, 2002.

Nariman said that meeting of Mittal with the then minister Mahajan doed not constitute a conspiracy and cited the apex court judgment holding that no conspiracy could be read in the then finance minister P. Chidambram meeting the then communications minister A. Raja for deciding spectrum price in 2008.

The apex court in its Aug 24, 2012, verdict while rejecting Bharatiya Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy’s contention alleging criminal conspiracy between Chidambram and Raja, had said: “Suspicion, however, strong, cannot take the place of legal proof and the meeting between Chidambaram and Raja would not by itself be sufficient to infer the existence of a criminal conspiracy so as to indict Chidambaram.”

Earlier, in the hearing of the matter, senior counsel K.K.Venugopal appearing for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had told the court that there was evidence to show that Mittal had met the then communications minister and officials for getting additional spectrum.

However, he had said that same was not the position with Ruia who was the beneficiary of the government decision to allocate more spectrum. He finds himself in the situation as the charge sheet against his company has not been challenged, Venugopal told the court.

Venugopal said that the petitioners could argue their innocence before the trial court in the course of arguments on the framing of charges instead of urging the apex court to quash their summoning by the 2G special court.