SC asks Dayanidhi Maran to face trial in illegal telephone exchange case

The Supreme Court has refused to intervene in a Madras High Court decision to set aside a CBI court order discharging former union telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran, his brother Kalanithi Maran and five others in the illegal telephone exchange case and asked the brothers to face trial.

The Supreme Court also told the special court to frame charges and complete the trial within 12 months, as directed by the Madras High Court.
Dayanidhi Maran had challenged the Madras High Court’s 25 July decision setting aside a CBI court order discharging him in the case, which, according to the FIR filed by investigating agency CBI, had caused an estimated loss of over Rs1.7 crore to the exchequer.
The CBI had found that 764 telephone lines, including 353 high-end connections, were provided at the Chennai and Delhi residences of Dayanidhi under service category without any entitlement and against procedures and norms. The telephone exchange facility was allegedly extended to Kalanithi's SUN TV network to enable its up-linking when Dayanidhi was the minister from 2004-07.
“Go and face trial,” Justice Ranjan Gogoi, heading a three-judge bench also comprising Justices R Banumathi and Navin Sinha, told Maran’s lawyers.
Besides the Marans, the other accused in the case are KB Brahmadathan and MP Velusamy, former chief general managers of BSNL, Chennai; Vedagiri Gowthaman, former additional private secretary to Dayanidhi Maran; KS Ravi and SUN TV staffer S Kannan.
The CBI had moved the Madras High Court on 25 July, which allowed the CBI’s plea that the decision of the trial court to discharge the accused from the case was “perverse”.
The High Court had observed that the only opinion any “judicial mind” could form, on the basis of the charges and supporting documents filed by the prosecuting agency was that “there are grounds to presume all the seven accused have committed offence”. The court had directed the special court to frame charges and complete the trial within 12 months.
The High Court had countered defence counsel’s submission that the case was a political witch-hunt against Dayanidhi Maran, “the man who had brought the broadband facility to every corner of the country”.
The High Court replied that indeed Dayanidhi, by virtue of his office, might have been instrumental in bringing the facility to the country, but that does not grant him the privilege of “unlimited usage” of the facility “for him, for his brother and his business establishment free of costs”.
“In a democratic country, an elected representative can never think like that. Nor the judicial system tolerate and entertain such thought,” the court had observed in its 87-page order.