The Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) inability to prosecute Dayanidhi Maran, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader and former telecom minister, in a case of corruption, adds to the growing list of failures by the NDA government to take cases to their logical end.
The CBI, whose strike rate in getting convictions in corruption cases is less than 10%, has just come off a big setback in the 2G scam case where the special judge virtually indicted the agency for not being able to build a cogent case.
With the discharge of the Marans, it is useful to examine how things went to so awry. After all, it was supposed to be an open and shut case as it related to illegal networks set up at Dayanidhi’s residences.
It is important to note that this was part of an elaborate CBI investigation. The investigation alleged that the illegal telephone exchange at Dayanidhi’s residence was linked with a BSNL network using ISDN lines, which were, in turn, linked to the offices of broadcast channel Sun TV.
Dayanidhi’s brother, Kalanithi Maran, is the chairman and managing director of the Sun Group and was also named in the case.
For the layperson, ‘ISDN lines’ are used to provide high-quality dedicated data services. They are primarily used by the commercial establishments for video conferencing and by media houses for transferring data – video and text.
The case goes all the way back to 2007 when Maran was telecom minister. At the time, there were no 4G networks and public internet was costly and simply not of high quality. Back then, BSNL and MTNL also accounted for more than 95% of the broadband market. The cost of carrying data was very high, which meant that ISDN lines were very costly.
In such a scenario, 323 ISDN lines were installed at Dayanidhi’s Boat Club Road residence from January to May 2007. Another 400-plus lines were installed at his Gopalapuram residence.
What is interesting is that there was no record of these lines in the BSNL system. According to the CBI report, installation of 323 lines “was programmed in such a way that no one other than the authorised BSNL staff was aware of the existence of such an exchange created for his exclusive use.”
It is not clear why the CBI failed to establish its case against Maran brothers. Credit: Twitter
The report further adds that by “such an arrangement, it would appear as if all the lines were used in the residence of the former minister, but actually, the cable laid facilitated SUN TV Network to utilise the service of BSNL provided at his residence.”
In other words, it is difficult to know how these were used. However, it appears highly likely that the ISDN lines were used for commercial purposes. Otherwise, why would Dayanidhi get 323 lines at his residences? The CBI also submitted its report to the telecom secretary in 2007.
All these records are available officially.
In such a scenario, it is not clear why the CBI failed to establish its case. While discharging Dayanidhi and others, CBI judge said that the CBI has not produced sufficient material to establish allegations against him that he got the alleged phone connections with malafide intention to use them for Sun TV. The judge also said that the CBI had not offered a proper reply on why the CD containing call records of the alleged phone connections was not furnished to the court.
It is also not clear how the CBI could get the details of the call records if the telephone lines were not registered in the BSNL system. After all, if there is evidence of the physical establishment of a network at Dayanidhi’s residences, that is proof in itself.
The CBI’s credibility, of late, has taken a big hit with the Supreme Court directing the investigation agency to probe its own former director Ranjit Sinha who was found to have entertained the accused in the spectrum and coal scam at his residence. This probe was also ordered during the Modi regime but it is not clear at what stage the probe is.
Meanwhile, for the first time in its history, the agency is seen as disowning its own investigation and chargesheet following a Supreme Court directive in the alleged fake encounter killing of Sohrabuddin, his wife Kausar Bi and Tulsiram Prajapati. BJP chief Amit Shah was the main accused in this case and he was discharged just after the NDA came to power. Subsequently, several police officers in the case have got discharged and 28 of 55 witnesses have turned hostile as they seem to have little protection from CBI. All this while the Supreme Court has been monitoring this case.
Overall, the CBI’s reputation appears to be in tatters as its strike rate in seeking convictions remains abysmally poor.-The Wire