NEW DELHI: Former Telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran was “evasive” during his questioning by CBI in a case of alleged abuse of his office in getting installed high capacity BSNL lines at his residences to facilitate speedy transmission of programmes to a TV firm owned by his brother and could be called again.
Highly-placed CBI sources claimed the 48-year-old Maran, who held Telecom and IT portfolio in UPA-I from 2004 to 2007, was “evasive on many points” during his 22-hour questioning over three days beginning last Wednesday. The sources said his replies to other points were being verified and he may be called again for questioning after the assessment has been completed.
Efforts to reach Maran for comments failed as he neither answered telephone calls nor replied to text messages.Maran had told reporters on Thursday outside the CBI headquarters that he had submitted documents collected throughRTI from MTNL and BSNL which, he claimed, showed he had not violated any norms or guidelines of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
CBI had registered a case naming Maran, the then Chief General Manager (CGM), BSNL, K Bramhanathan and then CGM of Chennai Telephones M P Veluswami for allegedly entering into a criminal conspiracy and causing a huge financial loss to the government exchequer.
In its FIR, CBI had said over 323 high data capacity lines were installed at Maran's residences in Chennai and Delhi, but subsequent probe led to discovery of over 770 such lines. The CBI began its probe in 2011, nearly four years after receiving complaints that a ‘virtual' telephone exchange had been configured at Maran's house for illicit use by Sun TV network owned by his brother Kalanithi.
Sources said these lines could transmit huge amounts of data but were treated under service category and no bills were allegedly raised between 2004 and 2007. CBI pegged the loss to the exchequer at Rs 1.8 crore.
The agency had arrested three people in connection with the case which included V Gowthaman, former Additional Private Secretary to Maran, Chief Technical Officer of Sun TV S Kannan and electrician L S Ravi.
CBI has alleged that the lines were installed in the name of BSNL General Manager connecting the Boat House residence of Maran with the office of the family-run Sun TV through a dedicated underground cable during his tenure as Telecom Minister.
Sources said these were not ordinary telephone lines but costly ISDN, Broadbased Remote Access Server (BRAS), Primary Rate Access (PRA), that are capable of carrying huge data, to facilitate faster transmission of TV news and programmes across the globe.
It was alleged that Maran's residence was turned into a virtual telephone exchange to facilitate speedy transmission of programmes by Sun TV owned by his brother Kalanithi, an action termed by Home Ministry as threat to national security.
The lines were also allocated to Maran's Gopalapuram residence in Chennai and another one in Delhi, they said.
CBI had in its report to the Telecom Secretary alleged these lines were for use by large commercial enterprises to meet special needs such as video conferencing or transmission of huge volume of digital data for which heavy fee is charged but Sun TV got it for free.
The illegal telephone exchange has been cited by the Home Ministry as one of the reasons for denying security clearance to the Sun TV network. The Ministry has said it posed a serious threat to national security.
Sun TV had approached the Home Ministry for security clearance and its case was supported by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. However, the Home Ministry declined to give clearance, saying the owners of the TV network were facing various cases for offences including money laundering.
Maran had already been questioned in connection with the case in January and October 2014, while Kalanithi was examined once in September last year.