India's top court adjourns hearing in Aircel-Maxis case, continues stay on merger with Reliance

WION New Delhi, India Feb 03, 2017, 10.45 AM(IST)

He also questioned the inclusiveness of the state government's economic development initiatives. Photograph:( AFP )

India's top court, the Supreme Court, has adjourned to February 8 the hearing in the Aircel-Maxis case.

The top court expressed its displeasure at the fact that Malaysian-based Maxis company owner T Ananda Krishnan, an accused in the case, and and Ralph Marshall, an officer of the company, were not present for the hearing despite summons. It warned Aircel that if they did not appear before it, the court would put a stay on the merger of Aircel with Reliance Communications and tell the federal government to auction Aircel and utlilise that money to pay bank loans.

Maxis currently holds over 99 per cent stake in Aircel according to the CAG report.

The Chief Justice of India Jagdish Singh Khehar said the court that any person could not take a loan from the bank and flee the country. "We know that even the government will not support anyone who flees the law. If the owner of Maxis does not appear before court, the Supreme Court knows how to deal with the matter. If Aircel shares are transferred to Reliance, then where will the Rs 20,000 crores of loans due to banks go. Will that money disappear in thin air. The court said it would put a stay on the transfer of shares from Aircel to Reliance and tell the federal government to auction Aircel. In case any company would bid higher than Reliance, then the shares would be given to that company and the money utilised to pay the bank loans."

Malaysian tycoon Ananda Krishnan is currently a fugitive under Interpol and is resisting arrest in Malaysia. 

The Supreme Court, in its last hearing on January 6, had barred Aircel from transferring the ownership of its 2G licenses, and had threatened to cancel the airwaves permits if Marshall and T Ananda Krishnan did not appear before it on February 3.

It had also restrained Maxis from earning any revenue from Aircel-Maxis's 65 million mobile phone connections, stating that it would not permit someone to benefit from the allotted spectrum unless he submitted to the process of the law.

A Delhi court had yesterday (February 2) ruled that former communications minister Dayanidhi Maran and his brother Kalanithi Maran would not undergo trial for corruption in the Aircel-Maxis deal.

They have been accused by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) of helping Malaysian communications service provider Maxis acquire telecom Aircel in exchange for a kickback of approximately Rs 700 crores. Former owner of Aircel, C Sivasankaran, had accused Dayanidhi Maran of withholding crucial permissions and clearances as a pressure tactic till he sold his company to Maxis in 2006.

Subramanian Swamy's case against Chidambaram

The main plaintiff -- Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Subramanian Swamy, was to present his case of an alleged illegality committed by then finance minister P Chidambaram in providing Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance to the Rs 3,500 crore deal in 2006. The BJP leader has also accused Maran of being a co-conspirator in the case.

Earlier in January, the top court had given an assurance that it would look into the question of alleged irregularity committed by Chidambaram.

Yesterday's ruling acquiting the Maran brothers was downplayed by Subramanian Swamy who said that the main case was the "illegal" FIPB clearance given to the firm which would be heard by the top court today.

"They were charged with a petty crime of having arm-twisting Sivasankaran, on that they have been led free. But the main case of illegal FIPB clearance given by Chidambaram, which is my case coming up before the Supreme Court tomorrow, there Mr Maran is a co-conspirator. That case is the main case. Now let the CBI appeal against this order and tag it along with my case and then we will get some results," Swamy had told ANI earlier.

In 2014, the CBI had filed charges against the Maran brothers, Malaysian tycoon T Ananda Krishnan, his aide Ralph Marshall, Sun TV, UK's Astro All Asia Networks,  Malaysia's South Asia Entertainment Holdings and Maxis Communications, and then additional secretary (Telecom) J S Sarma who died during the course of the probe.

They were chargesheeted for alleged offences punishable under section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of Indian Penal Code (IPC) and under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The special CBI court had also discharged the Maran brothers, Kalanithi's wife Kavery Kalanithi, South Asia FM Managing Director K Shanmugam and two companies -- SAFL and Sun Direct TV in two different cases due to lack of evidence.

Enforcement Directorate moves top court against special court's order

Inda's main economic law enforcement agency, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), also moved the top court against the special court's order which discharged the Maran brothers and other accused of corruption in the Aircel-Maxis case. 

The ED also urged the Supreme Court not to release the properties attached in the case. A  bench headed by Chief Justice of India Jagdish Singh Khehar and comprising Justice NV Ramanna and DY Chandrachud had earlier said they would hear the matter at 2 pm today.

(WION with inputs from ANI)