The Supreme Court today reserved its verdict on pleas of Bharti Cellular Ltd CMD Sunil Bharti Mittal and Essar Group promoter Ravi Ruia against a trial court order summoning them as accused in a corruption case related to allocation of additional spectrum during NDA rule in 2002.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu reserved the judgement after senior advocate F S Nariman, appearing for Mittal, concluded the arguments, saying that the trial court erred in summoning his client despite the fact that the CMD was named as accused in the charge sheet.
“The Assistant Legal Adviser (CBI) said that only public servants be made accused. It was then CBI Director A P Singh who said that the companies can also be made accused,” he said, adding that the trial judge went further and summoned Mittal as accused.
The Managing Director cannot be held “vicariously liable” for a criminal offence of a company unless there is evidence, he said.
Nariman told the bench, also comprising justices M B Lokur and A K Sikri, that there was “nothing unusual” in the alleged assertion that Mittal had meetings with then Telecom Minister Pramod Mahajan and then Telecom Secretary Shyamal Ghosh.
Earlier, CBI, which had not charged Mittal and Ruia, had defended the decision of a Special CBI judge to summon them as accused.
The court was hearing petitions seeking setting aside of an order of the Special CBI Judge by which Ruia and Mittal, whose name did not figure in CBI’s charge sheet as accused, were summoned on March 19, last year.
The lower court had said that there was “enough material” to proceed against them in the case.
Earlier, Essar Group promoter Ravi Ruia had said that he was not connected with the day-to-day affairs of the accused company Sterling Cellular Ltd and he was wrongly summoned in the case.
Besides Mittal and Ruia, the lower court had also summoned Asim Ghosh, the then Managing Director of accused firm Hutchison Max Telecom Pvt Ltd. Ghosh was also not named as accused in the charge sheet.