India’s Supreme Court warns Maxis boss of consequences of no show

AnandaNEW DELHI: India’s Supreme Court has threatened to auction Maxis group’s assets worth Rs 20,000 crore (RM13 million) if majority owner T Ananda Krishnan does not appear before it.

The Telegraph of India reported Chief Justice J S Khehar as telling Counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi:

“He (Krishnan) doesn’t care for the law or the Supreme Court of this country, and yet you people stand up to defend him? One must subject himself to the process of law.”

Singhvi, who appeared for Aircel, the Indian telecom firm owned by Maxis, had argued that Aircel was not under the control of Krishnan and, therefore, he could not be punished for not showing up.

Khehar, who headed a three-man bench, was quoted by The Telegraph as saying: “We won’t permit someone to benefit from the allotted spectrum unless he submits to the process of law.”

The bench, which sat on Feb 3, was dealing with an application by NGO, the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, for a stay on the sale of Aircel’s spectrum to Reliance Communication and Aircel. Aircel had originally been allotted 2G spectrum licences in 2006.

On Jan 6, the apex court had ordered the government to issue notices in two leading Malaysian newspapers asking Ananda Krishnan and Ralph Marshal, another top Maxis official, to appear before it.

Attorney-general Mukul Rohatgi, representing the government, told the bench the advertisements had been placed but that the Maxis duo had not responded so far.

Justice Khehar then said “one after the other, people are running away from this country, yet you are doing nothing”.

According to The Telegraph report, the remark appeared to be an oblique reference to liquor baron Vijay Mallya and former Indian Premier League czar Lalit Modi, who have been abroad since being accused of financial offences in India.

The legal issue involving Maxis arises from an allegation by the Central Bureau of Investigation that former Telecoms minister Dayanidhi Maran had forced Aircel owner C Sivasankaran to sell his stake to Ananda Krishnan.

Later, in a quid pro quo, Maxis had allegedly invested Rs 650 crore in Sun TV network, run by the Maran brothers.

A special court hearing the case last week ruled that the evidence was not sufficient to prosecute Maran and others.

However, the order would not have any effect on the Malaysians accused in the cases as the court had earlier segregated the trial against the Malaysians from that of the Indians, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

Maxis has, from the beginning of the case, asserted that all its dealings regarding Aircel have been in accordance with India’s laws.