A plea by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) opposing the discharge of the Maran brothers in a money laundering case in connection with the Aircel- Maxis deal on Friday led the Delhi High Court to seek their response.
Justice S P Garg issued notice to former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran, industrialist Kalanithi Maran and his wife Kavery Kalanithi, South Asia FM Ltd (SAFL), its managing director K Shanmugam and Sun Direct TV Pvt Ltd (SDTPL) and sought their replies within four weeks on the ED's plea against a February 2 order of a special court.
The special CBI court had by way of two separate orders dismissed the cases lodged by the CBI and the ED against the Marans and others in connection with the Aircel-Maxis deal.
The trial court had said that no prima facie case warranting framing of charges was made out against any of the accused on the basis of materials placed on record before it.
Dealing with the money-laundering case, the trial court had observed that since the accused were discharged in the case of scheduled offences registered by CBI and ED, the matter has become "groundless" and nothing survived in it.
In its petition, the ED has said the special court had not considered the submissions on the alleged illegal acts committed by corporate entities involved in the case.
"As a result, (the court) has failed to appreciate the roles of Kalanithi Maran and Kavery Kalanithi and their use of Maran group companies in committing illegal acts," the agency's petition has claimed.
The ED has also contended that the trial court "failed to appreciate" that an acquittal in the CBI case did not imply there could be no proceedings against the accused under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The agency has claimed that the trial court "erred" in holding that the commission of the offence was an essential condition for establishing the crime of money laundering.
"It is a settled position of law that prosecution of the offence of money laundering can proceed independently of the prosecution of the scheduled offence," the ED has said, adding the trial court had "failed to appreciate" that money laundering was a "stand alone offence" in law.
It has further claimed that the ED's attachments and confiscation of "the proceeds of crime" under the PMLA can "lawfully proceed" and that such restrictions cannot be lifted if the accused are discharged in the scheduled offence. The ED had earlier filed an appeal against the special court's order in the Supreme Court, but the apex court asked it to move the High Court instead.
In the money laundering case, ED had chargesheeted the Maran brothers, Kalanithi's wife Kavery, SAFL, Shanmugam and SDTPL under the PMLA. It had also attached Marans' assets worth Rs 748.52 crore in this case under the PMLA. CBI had also moved the high court challenging the February 2 order discharging the Marans and others in the Aircel-Maxis case.
The CBI, in its case, had filed a charge sheet against the Maran brothers, Ralph Marshall, T Ananda Krishnan and four firms -- M/s Sun Direct TV (P) Ltd, M/s Astro All Asia Networks Plc, UK, M/s Maxis Communications Berhad, Malaysia, M/s South Asia Entertainment Holdings Ltd, Malaysia -- and then Additional Secretary (Telecom) J S Sarma, who had died during the course of the probe.
They were chargesheeted for alleged offence of criminal conspiracy under the IPC and under relevant provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The special court had said that the case was based on the foundation that Dayanidhi and Sarma deliberately delayed the approval relating to several issues, including the issuance of UAS licences to Aircel, to force Chennai-based promoter C Sivasankaran to exit from the telecom sector.
The February 2 order of the trial court, however, had no effect on the two accused Malaysian nationals -- Ralph Marshall and T Ananda Krishnan -- in the CBI's case as it has already segregated the proceedings against them from that of Maran brothers and others.