A CBI special court judge, R Vasanthi ,on Wednesday framed charges against former Union Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran, his brother and Sun Network owner Kalanidhi, and five others in the illegal telephone exchange case and fixed the case for trial on Feb 19.
After their statements were recorded, the judge read out the charges against each of the accused and all pleaded not guilty. The charges included criminal conspiracy, criminal misconduct by public servant and corruption.
The case is that Dayanidhi, when he was Telecom Minister in the UPA Government from 2004 to 2006, got the State-owned BSNL to install 700 high-speed telecommunication lines at his posh Boat Club Road and Gopalapuram residences in Chennai and allowed these lines connected to the Sun Network for data transmission, causing a loss of Rs 1.78 crore to the Government.
Dayanadhi Maran said it was a politically motivated case." The CBI charge- sheet only says 'the Minister could have utilised’ the alleged illegal telephone exchange. This confirms there is no evidence to prove (any wrongdoing).” Thus, the whole case was based on assumptions, he argued.
Dayanidhi Maran also said that as Union Minister, he was entitled to free telephone calls up to Rs 3 lakh per year. “Everything was obtained legally, after taking permissions,” he said.
Kalanidhi Maran spoke in the same vein: “In the 6000 and odd page charge-sheet filed by the CBI, there is not a single mention of my name and I am unnecessarily being included (in the case... I have been in the business since 1996 and they want to destroy SUN TV by making me a scapegoat.”
Former BSNL Chennai circle chief general manager K B Brahmadathan, who is also an accused, said he merely followed the instructions of the senior officials. The other four were a personal assistants of Dayanadhi when he was Minister, as well as BSNL and Sun TV employees.
After framing the charges, the judge set Feb 19 for start of the trial. The Madras High Court has already -said it should be completed within a year. In a last- minute bid to stall the framing of charges, three of the accused moved the high court, contending there was not sufficient material to proceed against them.
Justice Anand Venkatesh rejected the contention of the Dayanathi's PA Vedagirii Gowtham and Sun TV employees S Kannan and K S Ravi and made it clear that at the time of framing charges, the trial court only needs to give the available material to the accused and there is no need to hear the counsel on the sufficiency of the materials.