New Delhi: The man who allegedly designed and implemented India's biggest scam, A Raja, has been granted bail. The former telecom minister has spent 15 months in jail for the telecom swindle, also referred to as the 2G scam for the sort of airwaves that are at the heart of the controversy.
Mr Raja was reciting prayers under his breath as the judge began reading out his order. Minutes before that, he told NDTV's A Vaidyanathan that he did not expect a favourable verdict. A loud cheer went up among nearly 150 supporters of Mr Raja's party, the DMK, as the order was read out. Mr Raja then blew kisses to his supporters. His wife, MA Parmesweri, was seen with tears in her eyes. "We are very happy...the family will get together. But a long battle lies ahead," she said, referring to the trial that will continue for her husband.
The judge accepted that Mr Raja should be treated at par with 13 others accused of conspiring with him in the telecom scam. They have all been granted bail already. The judge rejected the CBI's argument that Mr Raja could try to influence witnesses to tamper with evidence. "The case is going on for more than a year and no such incident has been brought to my notice," Judge OP Saini said. "I'm of the opinion that further detention of the accused would not serve any purpose," he added.
The conditions for his bail make it necessary for Mr Raja to get the court's permission to visit both his home state of Tamil Nadu and his former office at the Department of Telecommunications. He has been asked to surrender his passport.
DMK leader TR Baalu told the media, "We are very happy." The party chief, M Karunanidhi, has since Mr Raja's arrest stood firmly by the former minister, who is one of the party's most charismatic and popular Dalit leaders. He has yet to comment on Mr Raja's bail. Mr Raja was seen joking in court an hour before the order was announced with Mr Karunanidhi's daughter, Kanimozhi, also a leader from the DMK party, and co-accused in the telecom scam. She had also spent several months in prison till she was granted bail in November.
The charges against Mr Raja are hefty. For giving away licenses at dirt-cheap rates to companies that were ineligible, he has been accused of breach of trust by a public servant - a charge that could see him getting a life sentence if he is found guilty. He has said he is innocent, and that the Prime Minister and then Finance Minister P Chidambaram were aware of the policies he was implementing in 2008. But earlier this year, the Supreme Court cancelled 122 mobile network licenses issued by Mr Raja in 2008. The judges said that the first-come-first-serve policy followed by Mr Raja had been distorted to help companies he favoured - these allegedly include Reliance Telecom and Unitech Wireless, among the country's biggest mobile service operators. The court also said that the first-come-first-serve policy cannot be used for national resources- a decision which has led to the government formally seeking more clarity since it would affect how mining licenses, for example, are distributed.
Mr Raja applied for bail last week. His lawyers said that he has cooperated with the CBI investigation into the scam, and that he expects to be acquitted. The CBI had opposed his bail, arguing that as a former minister, Mr Raja is in a position to influence witnesses.
The telecom scam has determinedly dogged the UPA coalition, of which Mr Raja's party is a member. The government's auditor controversially said that the swindle has cost the country 1.76 lakh crores. The opposition has alleged that it exposes the voluptuous corruption within the government, and that the Prime Minister and Mr Chidambaram cannot abdicate responsibility for allowing, through non-interference, Mr Raja to execute his conspiracy.
Kathmandu: A private plane crashed in Nepal's northern Himalayas while trying to land at a mountain airstrip. Conflicting reports of number of survivors and casualty are pouring in suggesting atleast five people were rescued. The Indian Embassy informed 12 Indians were onboard of which five have been rescued. The injured people were taken to a local hospital, said Aryal, who is posted at Jomsom town.
However, according to the PTI, 19 people were onboard. 14 people have died, including four Indians.
The Agni Air plane plunged into a hill close to Jomsom near the Annapurna mountain range.
"The plane was about to land at Jomsom airport. It hit a muddy slope and the plane is now buried in the side of the hill," he police spokesman Binod Singh said.
The Jomsom Airport is a gateway to a popular tourist and trekking destination. It is about 200 kilometers (125 miles) northwest of the capital, Katmandu.
The Dornier aircraft belonged to the local Agri Air company.
ANANTAPUR: One year after the demise of spiritual guru Satya Sai Baba, who passed away on April 24, 2011, there still seems to be confusion on installing his idol, with members of the Sathya Sai Central Trust (SSCT) allegedly divided on the place where it should be installed.
The trust constructed a Maha Samadhi of Baba after his death at the Sai Kulwanth Hall and devotees have been visiting it and paying their respects.
It was also resolved then that an idol of Satya Sai Baba would be installed in front of the Samadhi.
Cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, a devotee of Sai Baba, had come forward to donate a white marble idol of Baba to the trust.
But the trust members kept postponing a decision the issue.
Meanwhile, with the Baba idol arriveding in Puttaparthi a week ago, speculation started growing that it will be installed on Tuesday, to mark his first death anniversary.
However, it is learnt that some trust members are against installing the idol at the Samadhi.
At a trust meeting, Sai Baba's nephew RJ Ratnakar had reportedly opined that installing an idol at Baba's Samadhi would give a particular religious identity to the place restricting access to devotees from other religions.
"Once the idol is installed, it will turn into a temple and rituals like Dhoopa-Deepa-Naivedyam will take place and there will be no scope for devotees from other religions to visit the Maha Samadhi," he is learnt to have said.
Satya Sai Sevadal branches were located in 132 countries and involved in service activities irrespective of caste and religion.
It would not be proper to attribute a particular religion to the Baba, he felt.
He reportedly suggested that instead of at the Maha Samadhi, the idol be installed at some other place.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday dismissed the petition challenging the appointment of Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh as the next chief of army staff.
Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh will succeed General V.K. Singh as the army chief when the latter demits office on May 31, 2012.
The supreme court bench of Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice H.L. Gokhale, while dismissing the petition by Admiral Ramdas and six others, said "We don't find any justifiable cause to invoke Article 32 of the Constitution. The writ petition is accordingly dismissed".
Before refusing the petition, the court had perused the original files relating to the appointment of Lt. General Bikram Singh as the next army chief.
New Delhi:Social activist Anna Hazare said he will not tour with yoga guru Baba Ramdev but share the stage wherever needed in the course of their nationwide campaign against graft.
The comment comes after reports of a rift within team Anna as the 74-year-old announced his alliance with Ramdev for a nationwide campaign where the two will be leading individual movements for a strong Lokpal and against black money respectively.
Hazare told reporters "I have told you before that we are not touring together, but we are fighting for the same purpose of getting black money and the Lokpal and Lokayukta bills. We shall stand together and share the same stage wherever needed,"
He added"After the Maharashtra trip, when we go together, it is possible that we share the stage".
Hazare will start his countrywide tour by the end of June.
Hazare was here for the core committee meeting in suburban Noida Sunday. A major rift emerged at the meeting with member Mufti Shamoon Qasmi being asked to stay away from the proceedings after he was reportedly found recording discussions on his mobile phone and transmitting it outside.