Friday, April 15, 2011

After Batcha's death, protection for 7 key witnesses in 2G case

NEW DELHI: Worried after the death of former telecom minister A Raja's close associate Sadiq Batcha last month in Chennai, the CBI has secured protection for the seven star prosecution witnesses in the 2G spectrum case. 

The witnesses, who are crucial to CBI's case against the accused in the mega scam, have been provided security cover by the Centre as well as, in appropriate cases, by the state governments. 

The CBI had recently written to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) stating that "the matter is sensitive and influential people are involved in it. And there is threat to their life so security should be provided to them." 

Special Public Prosecutor UU Lalit on Wednesday told the CBI court about the agency's fears. "Our apprehension is that witnesses are under critical threat," Lalit told the court as he opposed the bail pleas of accused persons. 

Sources in the agency said that the witnesses faced a real risk of physical harm from those who may be hurt by their depositions in the court. "The witnesses have given statements against Raja and others and have given important clues in the case. They have to also appear in the court in near future, if required, and we cannot risk their lives," sources said. 

The seven witnesses who have given their statements under Section 164 of the Cr PC to the magistrate implicating Raja and his co-accused are: Aseervatham Achary (former additional PS toA Raja), RP Aggarwal (the then Wireless Advisor), Ashok Wadhwa (Group CEO of Ambit Holdings), Ashish Karyekar (GM of Reliance Infrastructure), AK Srivastava (then DDG in DoT),Ram Jee Singh Kushvaha (Joint Wireless Advisor), and Deodatta Pandit (former company secretary in Reliance ADAG). 

A statement under the Section 164, Cr PC, is admissible in court. 

Batcha, whose rise to prominence and affluence tracked Raja landing important ministries of environment and telecom at the Centre, allegedly committed suicide last month in Chennai. Though his widow has attested to the veracity of the "suicide note" where Batcha attributed his extreme step to depression, that has not quelled suspicions of foul play. 

CBI has now taken over the matter from the Tamil Nadu police in what may reflect the agency's own doubts about the death. 

The witnesses have all have given substantial inputs for investigations into the roles of Raja, Shahid Balwa, Sidhartha Behura, RK Chandolia and several other corporate honchos. Achary is, in fact, the whistleblower, in the 2G case, and has given an important statement about Shahid Balwa's links with Raja and on Kalaignar TV. 

The agency is also investigating Shahid Balwa's alleged underworld links. 

There are 125 witnesses in the case but these seven have been cited as prime witnesses by CBI officials in the case.

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