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CBI defends summoning of Mittal, Ruia by trial court

CBI, which had not charged Bharti Cellular Ltd CMD Sunil Bharti Mittal and Essar Group promoter Ravi Ruia, on Wednesday defended in the Supreme Court the decision of a Special CBI judge to summon them in a corruption case related to allocation of additional spectrum during NDA rule in 2002.

“The fact that they were the controlling minds of the company are the matter of evidence. They have been summoned and they have an opportunity to seek discharge before the trial court,” the counsel for the probe agency told a bench headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu.

The bench, also comprising justices MB Lokur and AK Sikri, is hearing petitions seeking setting aside of an order of the Special CBI Judge by which Ruia and Mittal, whose name did not figure in CBI’s charge sheet as accused, were summoned on March 19 last year. The lower court had said that there was “enough material” to proceed against them in the case.

Senior advocate KK Venugopal, appearing for CBI, said, “we start with the assumption that there is a prima facie evidence against the accused companies. A person or a group of persons, who have been the guiding force behind a company, are responsible for the alleged criminal act of the company.”

Managing director and officials are the mind and nerve centre of a company and “guilty minds of directors or managers constitute the criminal offence of a company also”, he said.
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