SC stays cancellation of Maran's anticipatory bail

New Delhi


The Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the Madras High Court order cancelling former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran's anticipatory bail in an alleged illegal telephone exchange case as it asked if any political vendetta was in play for CBI seeking his custody for interrogation.

It slammed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for doing nothing for over two years since 2013 when the case was registered and now pressing for Maran's custody for interrogation.

A bench of Justice T.S. Thakur, Justice V. Gopala Gowda and Justice R. Banumathi chided the CBI for not arresting even one person in the Rs.8,000 crore National Rural Health Mission scam in Uttar Pradesh, but seeking Maran's custody for an outstanding bill of about Rs. 2 crore.

The CBI has alleged that Maran entered into a conspiracy with BSNL officials to use telephone facilities installed at his Chennai residence to benefit the family-owned Sun TV.

However, this did not wash down for the apex court.

"How this conspiracy was hatched. Why have (you) not arrested them (BSNL officials allegedly involved in the conspiracy). You should have caught hold of these officials. We will not approve of this (taking Maran into custody for interrogation). Question is why custody. Unless there is any other purpose. Is there any political vendetta for pushing his arrest?" Justice Thakur said apparently not persuaded of the submissions by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi.

"He is a politician. There may be people. All kind of things are going on. Less said the better," Justice Thakur said as Rohatgi contended that there was no "any other purpose" or "political vendetta".

Wondering why the first law officer was appearing in a matter where the challenge is to the cancellation of anticipatory bail, the court gave the CBI three weeks to respond to the petition by Dayanidhi Maran and directed the next hearing of the matter on September 14.

Taking exception to the whimsical ways the investigating agency functions in different cases probed by it, the court said: "You must be aware of NHRM scam in Uttar Pradesh. Not even a single person has been arrested. Rs.8,000 crore have gone down the drain."

"For Rs.8,000 crore, we will not arrest even a single person. For Rs.1.87 crore, which may be on account of abuse and misuse of official position (by Maran), you want custodial interrogation."

At this, Rohatgi said: "We want to unearth the conspiracy between Sun TV, BSNL officials and Maran and it was a case under Prevention of Corruption Act."

The AG said that telephone connections were given at the residence of Maran at Chennai to facilitate his work as communication minister but same were instead used to benefit the Sun TV in transferring date, films and other materials and bills were not raised on instructions of the minister (Maran).

An unimpressed court asked: "How you come to the conclusion that bills were not raised because the minister had said it."

It asked the AG to show the basis of Maran having asked the telephone officials not to raise the bills of those line that were installed at his Chennai residence from the records.

As Rohatgi said that Maran was not co-operating in the investigation, the court said: "If you say that Maran is not co-operating and not responding to your questions, then you can draw an adverse inference against him."

The court adjourned the hearing till September 14 as Rohatgi sought time to produce the record to address the court's queries.

The Madras High Court had on Monday cancelled Maran's anticipatory bail that was granted to him on June 30 for six weeks tagged with condition that he would co-operate with CBI in the investigation. - IANS