Irked over firms and individuals, including Swan Telecom promoter Shahid (STPL) Usman Balwa, asking for more time to file responses on the ED and CBI appeals challenging their acquittals in 2G cases, the Delhi High Court directed them on Thursday to plant over 16,000 trees as the penalty. Justice Najmi Waziri said the plantation drive will be carried out in Delhi's South Ridge forest area.
Granting one last opportunity to file responses to Balwa, director of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Private Limited Rajiv Agarwal, and firms -- Dynamic Realty, D B Realty Limited and Nihar Constructions Private Limited - in the ED's case, he asked them to plant 3,000 trees each here. It said three months have passed since the last order was passed in October 2018 but some of the parties have not yet filed their responses.
Balwa, Agarwal and the three companies along with others including former telecom minister A Raja and DMK MP Kanimozhi were acquitted by the trial court in the ED's money laundering case. Similarly, the high court allowed the plea of Raja's erstwhile private secretary R K Chandolia, director of Kusegaon Fruits Asif Balwa and Agarwal to grant the last opportunity to file responses in the CBI's case.
The court also Chandolia to plant 300 trees and Asif Balwa and Agarwal will plant 500 trees (in addition to his 3,000) each in South Delhi. All of them have been asked to report to the Deputy Conservator of Forests (South) on February 15 for this purpose. The companies will be represented through their authorised signatory.
"The plants shall be of deciduous indigenous variety and they shall be of nursery age of three and a half years old and have a height of at least six feet. They will ensure the maintenance of trees till the rainy season," the court said.
The judge said till now he has asked litigants in various cases to plant 39,000 trees and this way, soon the forest area would revive. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing CBI and ED, said this is the best of way of imposing cost.
Advocate Vijay Aggarwal, appearing for Balwas and others, who have been asked to do the plantation drive, said they welcome the court order. "Its innovative and in right earnest. We do volunteer for the same," Aggarwal said. The court listed the matter for further hearing on March 26.
A special court on December 21, 2017 had acquitted Raja, Kanimozhi and others in the CBI and ED cases. It had acquitted 17 others, including DMK supremo M Karunanidhi's wife Dayalu Ammal, Vinod Goenka, Asif Balwa, film producer Karim Morani, P Amirtham and Sharad Kumar, Director of Kalaignar TV in the ED case.
On the same day, the trial court had acquitted Raja, Kanimozhi and 15 others, including former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura, Chandolia, Unitech Ltd MD Sanjay Chandra and three top executives of Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (RADAG) -- Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair, in the CBI's 2G case.
On March 19 last year, the ED had approached the high court challenging the special court's order acquitting all the accused. A day later, the CBI too had challenged in the high court the acquittal of the accused in the case.
The ED, in its charge sheet, had alleged that Rs 200 crore was paid by STPL promoters to DMK-run Kalaignar TV. The CBI had alleged that there was a loss of Rs 30,984 crore to the exchequer in allocation of licences for the 2G spectrum which were scrapped by the top court on February 2, 2012.
Special Judge O P Saini, however, had held that the prosecution had "miserably failed" to prove the charges. The special court, which was set up on March 14, 2011 for hearing 2G cases exclusively, had also acquitted Essar Group promoters Ravi Kant Ruia and Anshuman Ruia and six others in a separate case arising out of the 2G scam probe.
The first case, prosecuted by CBI, had 17 accused, while the second matter, pursued by ED, had 19 undertrials. The third one had eight accused including Essar promoters. In the CBI case, Raja, Kanimozhi and 15 others were tried under provisions of the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act dealing with offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery, using as genuine fake documents, abusing official position, criminal misconduct by public servant and taking bribe.