Aircel-Maxis Deal: Supreme Court Orders Marans to Appear Before the Special Court

In what may be a further setback for the Maran brothers- Dayanidhi and Kalanidhi, the Supreme Court on Monday dismissed the petitions filed by the Marans challenging the jurisdiction of the Special Court set up to probe and adjudicate cases related to the 2G Spectrum scam and the cancellation of 122 licences. The Supreme Court chose not to intervene with the summons order issued by the Special Court demanding Maran brothers to appear before the Court in the Aircel-Maxis case.

The CBI had alleged that the DayanidhiMaran, who was then Union Minister for Telecom at the time, had intentionally delayed the granting of 2G Spectrum licence to Aircel owned by C. Sivasankaran. The delay in the grant of licence forced C. Sivasankaran to sell Aircel to the Malaysia based Maxis. In what complicated matters further was the fact that Sun TV, a Maran controlled company had invested substantially in Maxis, thereby prompting an investigation into the particulars of the deal by the Central Bureau of Investigation. A bench of Justices V. GopalaGowda and R. Bhanumati rejected the plea taken by Marans that the Aircel-Maxis deal did not fall within the jurisdiction of the Special court as it did not have any relation to the spectrum scam. They argued that the deal was more in nature of a personal dispute. However, the Bench asked the Marans to mount their jurisdictional challenge before the special court itself.

In an earlier order, on February 6, the Court had accepted Senior Advocate C.A. Sundaram’s argument on behalf of DayanidhiMaran for approaching an “appropriate forum” for further redress. While the order allowed the Marans to withdraw their petitions, it also allowed Senior Advocate L. NageshwarRao’s plea for “reserving the liberty to approach the High Court” to be placed on record. When the Chief Justice asked the Bench to look at this order afresh, it was promptly recalled the same day. Senior Advocate K.K. Venugopal, appearing on behalf of CBI, argued on Monday that the recalled order may have given the hint that Marans were free to approach the High Court in order to quash the summons issued by the Special Court. After reading out a series of judgments of the Supreme Court in 2G Spectrum case, Mr.Venugopal postulated that a challenge to an order of the Special Court can only come to the Supreme Court and not the High Court. The Bench too observed, “We are bound by the judgements of this court. We can neither deviate nor differ. If we differ, we have to refer it to a larger bench.”

However, the counsels for the Marans argued that Aircel-Maxi deal had no relation to the 2G Spectrum scam and as such the jurisdiction of the Court did not apply to them. They submitted that since theirs is a regular criminal case, their legal right to approach the High Court in order to challenge the summons order cannot be taken away. Mr.Sundaram countered the CBI by stating that his clients were placed in a uniquely precarious situation wherein they cannot approach either the High Court or the Supreme Court.

However, these arguments did not fly well with the Bench. After hearing all the arguments, the bench observed that “we are not inclined to pronounce judgement that whether it (Aircel-Maxis case) is 2G case or not. You have to go before the Special Court and agitate there and get an order”.

 Justice Gowda observed orally that in a situation where a Court has taken prima facie cognizance of the CBI charge sheet, there is no “absolute right” to approach the High Court seeking the quashing of the relevant Court order.

Further, the Marans also requested the Court to exempt them from personal appearance before the Special Court on March 2, 2015. However, the Court did not accede to their request and refused to entertain their plea.

Siddhartha Singh