The Supreme Court on Saturday warned Malaysian billionaire and Maxis Group owner, T Ananda Krishnan, against whom summons were issued in Aircel-Maxis case and his firm’s top official Ralph Marshall to appear before a trial court failing which 50% of Aircel’s shares would be auctioned.
The apex court also said that it would not tolerate ‘absconders’ evading India’s judicial process.
Maxis and its owner Krishnan, who haven't been discharged in the case, haven't appeared in court, despite a stern message calling on them to do so at the January 6 hearing by the Supreme Court bench headed by chief justice JS Khehar.
"You are running away from the law. You can come here, but you don't want to," he said on Friday. "Where is he (Krishnan)? He has been summoned by a court. If he doesn't come here, there will be consequences. Is anyone denying him his rights? He doesn't care. Who is he? And you people stand up to defend him?" There were harsh words directed at others as well by the bench, which included justices NV Ramana and DY Chandrachud.
The top court took offence to their having evaded court summons and warrants in the case in which former Telecom Minister and DMK leader Dayanidhi Maran, his brother Kalanithi Maran and others were chargesheeted by CBI in a probe related to money trail of around Rs 600 crore allegedly used as bribe in the Aircel-Maxis deal.
Maran brothers were on Thursday discharged in the case by a special court which had segregated the case of Krishnan and Marshal as they have failed to comply with summons to appear before it.
They were accused of pressuring and coercing Chennai-based telecom promoter C Sivasankaran, who got 2G licences in 2006, to sell his stakes in Aircel and two subsidiary firms to Malaysian firm Maxis Group.
When the matter came up for hearing, a bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar said the Malaysian businessmen have not complied with its January 6 order which had clearly stated the non-appearance before the apex court would lead it to pass an order to restrain the earning of any revenue by the company from 2G spectrum licences.
The bench, also comprising Justices N V Ramana and D Y Chandrachud, said they will have to face the "consequences" for failing to appear before courts in India and it "might order auctioning of the spectrum allotted to Aircel-Maxis to recover the Rs 20,000 crore debt".
It said these Malaysian nationals, who have been summoned as accused in the Aircel-Maxis deal case, were not respecting the orders of the courts here and if they "don't care about the law and court's order" the apex court will deal with them.
The bench said if these accused do not respond to the summons and appear before the court here, then "it will not be open for them to raise objections in case of monetary loss".
"We will adopt any mean to ensure there is no absconder from this country and there is no absconder to the summons of the courts here," the bench said.
"We are hearing for those persons who are running away from the law. He (Krishnan) is an accused and he has been chargesheeted. Why he is running away? He should come and explain and finish the matter.
"Here is the Supreme Court which is asking these people to come but they are saying no we will not come. People from our country are running away one after other and are not coming back," the bench said.
"Why he (Krishnan) is not coming? We are not punishing him. He has been summoned by a court and he is not responding to it. The other country is saying no he will not come. Ok, don't come but there will be consequences here. It is clear that he does not care for the courts here," it said.
When senior ad vocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Aircel, referred to yesterday's order discharging Marans to buttress that now no case survives, the bench shot back, "It seems everyone is trying to be a proxy for these accused."
When he informed the bench about the proposal of merger of the shares of the firm with Reliance Wireless, the bench asked him about debt of around Rs 20,000 crore which was given by banks.
"Rather than allowing the transfer of shares to Reliance, we will allow the Government of India to auction these very assets to be merged in some other company and if some other company brings more money, this money will be discharged to banks," the bench said.
"The interest of the banks have to be protected and we are here to protect them," it said, adding that "the government never supports a person who is an absconder.
Singhvi tried to persuade the bench that after yesterday's order passed by the special court discharging Marans and others in the case, all the accused in the case stand discharged.
"There was a charge of conspiracy. The principal accused are discharged by the court. There can't be a conspiracy qua the co-accused if main accused are discharged," he said.
The bench, however, said, "But the fact of matter is that summons issued to these accused in Malaysia still exist."
However, Singhvi said that the company has no control over Krishnan and "today Aircel is being punished for something which it has not done at all".
"I as Aircel can't ensure presence of Krishnan here. Can the court punish Aircel for not ensuring the presence of Krishnan before the courts here?" he said.
To this, the bench said, "This man (Krishnan) will have to come to us. He must come to answer summons of the court. You don't worry, we will deal with it."
The bench observed that it can't allow anyone to benefit from the allotted spectrum unless the accused appear before the court of law.
It also noted that despite publication of this matter in the leading newspapers of Malaysia, these accused have not appeared before the courts here.
"Despite this, can they be allowed to continue to earn from here?" the bench observed.
At the fag end of the hearing, Singhvi sought time from the court to file an affidavit explaining all the issues which he was arguing in the matter.
The bench allowed Aircel to make clear all the points raised by it till February 8 and posted the matter for hearing to February 10.
Threat to Aircel, RCom merger
At one point the bench threatened to stall the planned merger between Aircel and Reliance Communications (RCom).
"We will not allow this transfer to Reliance. We will ask the government to auction it off... We will adopt any means so that no one runs away with a debt to the country or tries to avoid summons of an Indian court... You are hand in glove with him," the bench said as reported by Economic Times.
(With inputs from PTI)