In a curious development, Justice A R Dave of Supreme Court on Thursday became the second judge in four days to recuse himself from the bench hearing the petitions of Bharti Cellular Ltd CMD Sunil Bharti Mittal and Essar Group promoter Ravi Ruia in a graft case related to allocation of additional 2G spectrum in 2002.
Without assigning any reason, Justice Dave, who was part of the bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, opted out of hearing the pleas of Mittal and Ruia challenging the summons issued to them in the case.
The CJI said that a new bench will be constituted to hear the matter and in the meantime, the proceedings pending before the trial court will remain ‘postponed’ for another week.
Earlier, the bench had asked the trial court to postpone its hearing till April 22.
During the previous hearing on April 15, Justice Vikramajit Sen, who was one of the members of the three judge bench headed by the CJI, had also recused himself from hearing the matter without giving any reason.
During the last hearing, the CBI had said that the matter should be referred to another bench headed by justice G S Singhvi, which has been monitoring the development into the investigation into the 2G spectrum scam and cases arising out of its probe.
The bench headed by justice Singhvi had ordered the CBI probe into the allocation of 2G spectrum during the regime of A Raja as telecom minister and additional spectrum issued in 2002 during the NDA regime when late Pramod Mahajan was the telecom minister.
Mittal and Ruia had appeared before the trial court on April 16 in pursuance to the apex court's earlier order and had also furnished personal bonds.
Special CBI Judge O P had Saini had accepted their bonds and had posted the matter for further proceedings on April 22.
The apex court on April 8 had postponed the hearing till April 16 against Mittal and the same relief was granted to Ruia on April 10.
The Central Bureau of Investigation had told the apex court that investigation into the case has ‘found evidence against the CMD’ (Mittal). It had also told the bench that court has power under section 319 of the CrPC to proceed against other persons, not named as accused in the charge sheet.
CBI had said that in the case in hand, the probe by the ‘investigating officer had found evidence against the CMD’.
While summoning Mittal, Asim Ghosh, then MD of Hutchison Max Telecom Pvt Ltd and Ruia, then a Director in Sterling Cellular Ltd, the special CBI court had said that they were ‘prima facie’ in ‘control of affairs’ of their companies, named in the charge sheet by CBI in the case.
The trial court had also summoned Ruia and Ghosh, whose names were not mentioned in the charge sheet.
Mittal had approached the apex court contending that criminal liability cannot be fastened on an individual for alleged acts of a firm.
CBI had filed the charge sheet on December 21 last year against former Telecom Secretary Shyamal Ghosh and three telecom firms -- Bharti Cellular Ltd, Hutchison Max Telecom Pvt Ltd (now known as Vodafone India Ltd) and Sterling Cellular Ltd (now known as Vodafone Mobile Service Ltd). They all were also summoned for April 11 by the court.
The CBI, in its charge sheet, has named the three telecom companies as accused in the case in which the Department of Telecommunications had allocated additional spectrum which had allegedly resulted in a loss of Rs 846 crore (Rs 8.46 billion) to the exchequer.