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Raja sends cabinet message

New Delhi, Feb. 3: A. Raja today cited the collective responsibility of the cabinet to defend himself in the 2G spectrum case but the former telecom minister was remanded in CBI custody for five days.

“He was not the only one to decide everything on the award of spectrum licences to telecom companies. All the decisions were approved by the cabinet and other statutory panels and his arrest is unjustified. So is the appeal for his police remand,” Raja’s counsel Ramesh Gupta told the special CBI court today.

However, former telecom secretary Siddarth Behura, who was arrested along with Raja yesterday, did not oppose the CBI plea for remand.

His lawyer S.S. Gandhi said Behura “is innocent and is ready and willing to disclose everything before the investigating agency”. A CBI officer later hinted that Behura could become an approver.

The CBI put the alleged loss to the exchequer because of Raja’s 2G allocation at Rs 22,000 crore — a huge amount but far lower than the Rs 1.76 lakh crore presumptive loss estimated by the CAG. The CBI also said two companies — Swan Telecom and Unitech — benefited from the allocation. (See Business)

Raja, Behura and the former minister’s secretary R.K. Chandolia were arrested yesterday on charges of criminal misconduct and favouring some telecom companies.

Special judge .P. Saini granted remand till February 8, “considering the nature of the allegations, seriousness and gravity of offences and the consequent need of interrogation”.

Raja and his two associates were brought to the Patiala House courts from the CBI headquarters at 2pm.

Raja raised his folded hands and the two others waved when the judge called out their names.

Public prosecutor Akhilesh told the court: “The former minister had been evading several questions. We pray to you for granting five days police custody… (for) sustained interrogation.”

Raja, who was standing in the courtroom, vigorously shook his head. At times he closed his eyes, looked up and muttered. The former minister, who is a lawyer, then whispered to another lawyer standing next to him. “I was co-operating with the CBI…” Raja told The Telegraph in reply to a question.

Raja’s counsel Gupta said the CBI had already seized all documents and interrogated the former minister several times. “The agency’s appeal should not be granted just for the sake of custodial interrogation,” he said.

Gandhi filed an application saying Behura’s wife Anju was a cancer patient and would undergo an operation on February 5. The judge said Behura must be taken to the hospital on February 5 to meet his wife before and after the operation if the procedure does take place.

The judge said all the accused should be medically examined after every 48 hours and their counsel/family can meet them for half an hour daily.

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