Maran rejects CBI charges in illegal telephone exchange case

Chennai: Rejecting CBI’s charges in the alleged illegal telephone exchange case against him, former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran today contended in the Madras High Court that the central agency was seeking cancellation of his interim anticipatory bail with an intention to malign him.

In his arguments before Justice S Vaidyanathan on the petition by CBI, senior counsel P S Raman, who appeared for Maran, said no evidence had been provided so far to prove the allegations and wondered how BSNL telephone lines could be used to telecast videos. “How can you telecast cinema with telephone lines?”

CBI has registered an FIR against Maran and others alleging that more than 300 high-speed telephone lines were provided at his residence and extended to his brother Kalanithi Maran’s SUN TV channel to enable its uplinking when he was Telecom Minister from 2004-07.

Apprehending arrest in the case, Maran had moved the court which on June 30 granted him anticipatory bail for six weeks subject to the condition that he appears before CBI on July 1 and cooperate in the investigation.

Raman claimed that CBI with an intention of maligning Maran was alleging he had not co-operated with the probe, that too after the rejection of security clearance to the Sun Group, owned by his family, by the Home Ministry.

He claimed Maran was kept from 10 AM to 6 PM (on July 1) in the CBI office under the guise of investigation and the same set of questions for which he had already answered were repeated.

The counsel also said anyone who would like to use the service category telephone can avail 300 lines by paying an amount of Rs.1,750 per month to BSNL and Maran had only one connection with 300 lines enabling to talk in different lines when one line is busy.

Countering CBI’s charge that Maran had used 724 telephone lines and had a mini telephone exchange, he said CBI had not proved the former minister had several numbers of telephone connections. Only one bill was generated for one phone number by BSNL.

He also said while the alleged fraud took place in 2011 as per CBI, the FIR was filed only in 2013.

Additional Solicitor-General G Rajagopalan, who appeared on behalf of CBI, however, said Maran’s custodial interrogation was important for two reasons — one, the ex-minister had blocked 1,000 numbers and used 724 lines. As one single individual could not have used all these lines, CBI wanted to find out the real beneficiary of the “fraud.”

Two, it also wants to ascertain the quantum of the loss caused to exchequer, CBI said.

He further submitted that though the case was of 2004 vintage, Maran enjoyed “political patronage” till 2013.

Maran could not demand any privilege merely because he was a former union minister. What would have happened to a suspect if he were a BSNL engineer? he said.

Justice Vaidyanathan adjourned the matter to August 10 when the arguments are likely to be completed and the order likely to be passed.