Former Telecom Minister A Raja on Friday opposed in a Delhi court the fresh plea of Central Bureau Investigation seeking framing of a charge for criminal breach of trust in the 2G spectrum allocation case against 17 accused, saying it was an attempt to keep him in jail.
"Only purpose (for the CBI move) is to hold them (accused) in custody till the time they (CBI) can. Otherwise the case is busted and there is nothing in the application," senior advocate Sushil Kumar, appearing for the DMK leader, told Special CBI Judge O P Saini.
Terming CBI's application as "malafide", Kumar said Raja did not commit any offence and it was filed at a "belated" stage as the provision provides for life imprisonment.
Initially, the accused have been charged under provisions, which entail 7 years jail as maximum sentence, he said, adding that CBI has moved the plea as it wanted to keep them in jail.
Kumar said the roles of Raja and then Finance Minister P Chidambaram were identical in the case. "I am not saying P Chidambaram is guilty. Both of us are innocent. Whole country is saying he (Chidambaram) is innocent then how I can I be held guilty.
"The documents are self explanatory. All the decisions were taken in public interest and something has gone wrong somewhere and then they (CBI) needed a scapegoat and made him (Raja) an accused," Kumar said.
Kumar cited a SC verdict in a case involving Captain Satish Sharma in which the proceedings under section 409 of the IPC were quashed.
CBI has sought framing of additional charges against Raja, his former private secretary R K Chandolia and former Telecom Secretary Siddharth Behura. If convicted, they can face a maximum punishment of life term or imprisonment up to 10 years.
By the yardstick, adopted by the CBI in the case, almost all the ministers can be arrested for the offence of criminal breach of trust, the counsel for Raja said.
"All of a sudden, last Monday, CBI came up with a bright idea that Raja, Chandolia and Behura committed criminal breach of trust and the other 14 accused supported them in their conspiracy.
"I (Raja) have not committed any criminal breach of trust. Though, I have not applied for bail as yet but the fresh charge reduces the chances of bail for those who have moved for it as the penal provision carries life imprisonment, if convicted," he said.
"The report of the TRAI expert committee, which says there was no loss to the exchequer, was filed by CBI in the trial court but this was not there in the Supreme Court," he said.
The mention of the apex court by the defence lawyer during arguments prompted the Judge to caution him. "It is my argument. I can argue this, if you (judge) do not want it, you can reject it. I have no problem, I am used to rejection but I will say it in my arguments," Kumar responded.
However, special prosecutor U U Lalit vehemently argued for framing of additional charges against the accused saying as a minister Raja dealt with natural resources and distributed the spectrum licenses in "arbitrary and capricious" manner.
Citing various judgements, Lalit said it was the duty of the government to preserve natural resources as the custodian of the public property as the "Public Trust doctrine" is not confined to the environmental issues.
"A minister, who is the executive head of the department, holds a trust on behalf of the people. He has to deal with the people's property in a fair and just manner and he cannot breach the trust reposed on him by the people," he said.
Except Raja, other 16 accused including three companies, Reliance Telecom, Swan Telecom and Unitech, filed their responses to the CBI application for invoking section 409 (criminal breach of trust) of the IPC against them.
CBI, in its plea, said Raja, Behura and Chandolia were public servants having a dominion over valuable 2G spectrum in their respective capacities as public servants and they flouted law in award of licenses which made out a case of criminal breach of trust against them.
It also sought to try rest 14 accused, including DMK MP Kanimozhi, Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Balwa, under the same penal provision by making them a party to criminal conspiracy hatched by Raja and two other public servants. It would also make others liable to face the same jail term if held guilty.