Additional spectrum case: HC expunges remarks against CBI in special court’s discharge order

The Delhi High Court has expunged the adverse and disparaging remarks made against CBI by a special court in its order discharging former telecom secretary Shyamal Ghosh and three telecom firms in the 2002 additional spectrum allocation case.

The high court said the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is the premier investigating agency of the country, and any observation or remark which does not have substantive basis will “demoralise” the entire agency.

“The law as discussed… makes it clear that the function assigned to investigating agency is very sensitive in nature,” Justice Dinesh Kumar Sharma said.

He said the record showed that the special court, before making such remarks, gave no opportunity to CBI officers to defend themselves.

“In any case, the order of discharge has not been challenged by the CBI as recorded by the special judge. However, the remarks, which have been pointed out by senior special counsel, can certainly harm the concerned officials.

“Any prejudice caused to the person without giving any an opportunity of being defended or extremely substantive in cogent reason cannot be sustained in the eyes of law,” the high court said.

It allowed the CBI’s petition and expunged the “adverse and disparaging remarks” against the probe agency in general and the officer concerned in particular in the October 15, 2015 verdict of the special court by which the accused were discharged.

Ghosh and three telecom companies — Hutchison Max (P) Ltd, Sterling Cellular Ltd and Bharti Cellular Ltd — were charge sheeted by the CBI in the case related to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) allocating additional spectrum that

allegedly led to a loss of Rs 846.44 crore to the exchequer.

The counsel representing the CBI submitted the adverse remarks are liable to be deleted outright as the special judge had, without giving an opportunity of being heard, directed the CBI to conduct an inquiry against the erring officials and take action against them as per law.

The counsel for the respondents, who were discharged by the special court, submitted they have no objection to the remarks getting expunged.

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Ghosh had countered CBI’s arguments before the special court, saying private firms were not the only beneficiaries of allocation of surplus radio waves which also benefited state-run MTNL and BSNL.

The officer had asserted he had not abused his official position in any manner.

Similarly, the accused telecom firms had also countered CBI’s loss theory, saying they were allotted “spare radio waves” which would have caused gain to the government.

While discharging them in the case, the special court had said the charge sheet was “full of distorted and fabricated facts” and the agency has tried to “mislead” the court.

The special court had said the charge sheet was based on “deliberately redacted and garbled facts” and it was drafted in a manner to create an impression that a grave crime was committed, whereas there was none.

There was no incriminating material on record against the accused, it had said.

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