A Special CBI Court in Chennai framed charges against former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran and his brother, founder of Sun TV Network Kalanithi Maran, in the alleged illegal telephone exchange case. Judge R Vasanthi also framed charges against five others – former BSNL General Manager K Brahmanandam, former Deputy General Manager MP Velusamy, Dayanidhi Maran’s Private Secretary Gauthaman, Sun TV employees Kannan and Ravi – in the case on Wednesday. All accused including the Maran brothers were present in court.
All accused were charged under IPC sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 409 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating), and the Prevention of Corruption Act. Denying the charges, Dayanidhi Maran called the case “politically motivated”, stating there was no evidence to prove that the connections were given illegally and in violation of law. He also said that the telephone connections were only used for official purpose in his capacity as Telecom Minister, reported Economic Times.
His brother Kalanithi claimed that he was made a “scapegoat” and that he was “unnecessarily being included in the case” despite the CBI’s 6000-page chargesheet not mentioning his name, reported The New Indian Express. He also went on to claim that he had started Sun TV in 1994 while Dayanidhi was a Union Minister between 2004 and 2007 and that the case was foisted on him with the intention of eliminating the Sun TV Network.
The illegal telephone exchange case dates back to when Dayanidhi was Telecom Minister in the UPA-I government between 2004 and 2007. The CBI alleges that Dayanidhi misused his office, installing a private telephone exchange at his Boat Club and Gopalapuram residences in Chennai between 2004 and 2006. The agency accused the former Union Minister of installing 764 high-speed telecommunication lines at his residence to facilitate the illegal uplink of Sun TV data. With no bills raised during this period, the CBI said that alleged illegal telephone exchange cost the government a loss of Rs 1.78 crore.
It was in March 2018 that a Special CBI court in Chennai discharged all the accused citing lack of material to frame charges against them. However, in July last year, the Madras High Court set aside the order, observing there was enough material against the accused to go ahead with the case. It was then sent back to the Special CBI court. While the Marans then moved the Supreme Court challenging the High Court’s order, the apex court ordered the accused to face trial in the case.