In a major relief to Dayanidhi and Kalanithi Maran, a Delhi court has discharged all the accused in the Aircel-Maxis case. The court cleared them of all the charges filed by both the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI.
The order running to hundreds of pages, says that there is no case against the Marans, making the bail plea filed by them is also infructuous.
While the Maran brothers have been lying low in politics and business, the discharge will clear the way for them to return to active public life.
The Central Bureau of Investigation had alleged that Dayanidhi Maran, as Minister in the UPA-I government used his influence to help Malaysian businessman TA Ananda Krishnan to buy Aircel by coercing its owner Sivasankaran to part with his stake.
Along with Maran, his brother and businessman Kalanithi Maran, Chennai-based firm Sun Direct TV, Krishnan, his aide Augustus Ralph Marshall, and the two accused firms -- Maxis Communications Berhad and Astro All Asia Networks, both of Malaysia, were charged in the case.
The order, passed by special judge OP Saini, notes that the former Union Minister Dayanidhi Maran and his wife Priya had no stake in Sun Direct TV Pvt. Ltd or South Asia FM.
"In the eyes of law, these grounds themselves are not enough to connect the money received in the company of Kalanithi Maran and Dayanidhi Maran. The fact that they are real brothers or shareholders in some companies or that Dayanidhi Maran got a letter addressed to his brother Kalanithi Maran collected through his stenographer, are by themselves not indicative of conspiracy. They may indicate close association but nothing beyond that," the judge stated.
The court went on to observe, "Perception or suspicion are not enough for criminal prosecution. Perception or suspicion is required to be supported by legally admissible evidence."
Crux of the case
In November 2006, 14 licenses were given by the Telecom Ministry to Aircel, an Indian telecommunication company owned by Chennai-based businessman Sivasankaran. These licenses were given at the same rate as was applicable in 2001. The accusation was that Dayanidhi Maran who was then Telecom Minister delayed the granting of the license by two years and was arm-twisting Sivasankaran the owner of Aircel.
Sivasankaran had accused that in return for getting the license he was forced to sell 74% stake in Aircel in December 2005 to a company called Maxis. Maxis was owned by a Malaysian businessman named Ananda Krishnan. The allegations against the Maran brothers was that they delayed the granting of license to Aircel until it could be taken over by Maxis.
The quid pro quo was alleged because Ananda Krishnan had bought shares worth Rs 549 crore in Sun Direct, a company owned by the Marans.
This money, according to the chargesheet, was paid by Maxis through its subsidiary Astro All Asia Network.
A subsidiary of Astro All Asia, called South Asia Entertainment Holdings Ltd, purchased the shares of Sun Direct Pvt Limited at a premium of Rs 69.57.
The CBI had also alleged that a sum of Rs 193 crore was paid to another company owned by the Maran family, South Asia FM Ltd.