In what can be seen as a major blow to the already beleaguered telecom sector, the special CBI court hearing the 2G spectrum scam case on Tuesday decided to summon Bharti Airtel chairman and managing director Sunil Mittal as an accused in a case relating to grant of additional spectrum to the company in 2002 during the NDA government’s regime.
Taking cognizance of the charge sheet filed earlier by the Central Bureau of Investigation, special judge OP Saini also summoned former managing director of Vodafone (Hutch) Asim Ghosh and vice-chairman of the Essar Group Ravi Ruia, who was then a director of Sterling Cellular, which later became part of Hutch/Vodafone.
The three corporate czars along with former department of telecommunications secretary Shyamal Ghosh, whose name was mentioned as an accused in the CBI’s charge sheet, have been summoned to the court on April 11.
The surprise element in Saini’s order was including the names of Mittal, Asim Ghosh and Ruia as accused since the CBI had, apart from Shyamal Ghosh, only mentioned the names of the companies — Bharti Airtel and Vodafone — as accused and not names of any their officials.
“I have carefully gone through the copy of FIR, charge sheet, statement of witnesses and documents on record. On the perusal of the record, I am satisfied that there is enough incriminating material on record against the accused persons,” Saini noted in his two-page order.
“I also find that at the relevant time, Sunil Bharti Mittal was chairman-cum-managing director of Bharti Cellular Ltd, Asim Ghosh was managing director of Hutchison Max Telecom Pvt Ltd and Ravi Ruia was a director in Sterling Cellular Ltd, who used to chair the meetings of its board. In that capacity they were/are prima facie in control of affairs of the respective companies. As such they represent the directing mind and will of each company and their state of mind is the state of mind of the companies. They are/were ‘alter-ego’ of their respective companies. In this fact/situation, the acts of the companies are to be attributed and imputed to them. Consequently, I find enough material on record to proceed against them also,” he wrote.
The order, which came during market hours, saw the Bharti Airtel share drop close to 8% before ending at Rs 293.40 on the BSE, a loss of 4.74%.
So far, companies like Reliance Telecom (RTL), Swan Telecom and Unitech Wireless have been