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Raja fires cabinet salvo

New Delhi, Feb. 3: A. Raja today cited the collective responsibility of the cabinet to defend himself in the telecom case but the plea did not prevent the court from allowing the CBI to keep the former telecom minister for five more days.

Raja’s counsel Ramesh Gupta said he was innocent as all the decisions on granting the licences had the approval of the Union cabinet and various statutory panels.

“Accordingly, Raja was not solely responsible in the alleged scam,” Gupta maintained.        “All the documents had been seized by the CBI in 2009 itself and moreover, Raja had already been interrogated at the agency's headquarters several times in the past,” his counsel said.

The CBI should not be awarded Raja’s custody just for the sake of interrogation, Gupta said, adding: “There has to be a justification for the same.

The court, however, did not agree with Raja's plea and sent him and other co-accused to CBI custody. The judge directed that all the accused be medically examined after every 48 hours and their counsel and family members would be at liberty to meet them.

The Delhi court said the charge of loss of Rs 22,000 crore in award of the 2G spectrum licences to some companies by his decisions “are very serious”.

“The allegations against the accused (Raja, Siddharth Behura, R.K. Chandolia) are that they allotted the Unified Access Service Licences (UASL) in violation of rules and procedure and caused huge loss estimated to be Rs 22,000 crore to the state exchequer.

“The allegations are very serious on the face of it and required no elaboration. Accordingly, considering the nature of the allegations, seriousness and gravity of offences and consequent need of interrogation of accused in the light of the allegations, I am satisfied that the prayer for police custody remand is justified,” Special CBI judge O.P. Saini said while remanding them in CBI’s custody till February 8.

The 47-year-old DMK leader, former telecom secretary Behura and Raja’s former personal secretary Chandolia, were produced around 2pm in the packed courtroom.

Behura, whose wife is to undergo surgery for cancer at Apollo hospital, has been allowed by the court to see her before and after the operation on February 5.

The CBI, which had lodged an FIR on October 21, 2009, against some unknown persons in the case, had yesterday arrested Raja and the two top officials under various provisions of the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act, relating to the offence of criminal conspiracy and abuse of official position.

Wearing a grey safari suit, Raja greeted the judge raising his folded hands over his head.

CBI senior prosecutor Akhilesh alleged that Raja and others had caused the loss of Rs 22,000 crore, which, he said, may go up, by abusing their official position.

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