Dayanidhi Maran shares RTI evidence with CBI on BSNL case

Former communications minister Dayanidhi Maran shared some RTI replies of BSNL and MTNL with the CBI during questioning on the second day on Thursday in the case involving the installation of over 700 phone lines at his Chennai residence.

Maran, who reached the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) headquarters around 10.45 a.m., was examined by the Special Task Force (STF) between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., an official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IANS.

The STF officials had reportedly asked Maran, a communications minister in the first Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government (2004-07), to provide evidence of his innocence, as he faced them for seven-and-a half hours on Wednesday.

As per instructions of the CBI sleuths, the minister gave them a bunch of Right To Information (RTI) replies collected from the BSNL and MTNL.

Maran accepted that he provided the RTI replies from MTNL and BSNL in his defence to the CBI officials during his seven-hour interrogation.

“I was given an opportunity to give some good evidences which I have collected through RTI from BSNL and MTNL, which clearly says that one ISDN PRI connection is only one connection and not three hundred connections as claimed earlier,” Dayanidhi Maran told IANS after his questioning at the CBI headquarters.

“Similarly, I have given much more information which was all received through RTI,” he added.

Maran said he was cooperating with the CBI officials and was ready to answer their questions any time. “I also assure them that in future also I will cooperate and come any time to answer their questions.”

The loss to the public exchequer is now being put at Rs.1.80 crore rather than the earlier quoted figure of Rs.440 crore.

The STF staff of the CBI, who had registered an FIR in the case on July 23, 2013, on Thursday again questioned Maran with a new list of over 300 questions.

The STF team is probing the installation of over 700 phone lines, including 323 high data capacity BSNL lines, being used at his Boat House residence in Chennai to benefit the Sun TV group, owned by his elder brother Kalanithi Maran.

Asked if the CBI would approach the court for cancellation of Maran’s interim bail, which was taken by him on Tuesday from the Madras High Court, the official said: “Maran is cooperating with us in questioning. He again appeared at the CBI headquarters before the time he was given. We don’t need to go to court for the rejection of his interim bail plea.”

On Thursday, Maran was again asked by the STF whether the high capacity lines, in which a stealth cable was used, were used illicitly by Sun TV channel to transfer huge amount of data without paying for the service.

The agency’s investigation also centres on the fact that the system was devised in such a way that except for the “authorised BSNL staff”, no one in the state-owned telecom company was aware of it.

Maran, who faced several rounds of questioning, was also asked about the role of his aides – former additional private secretary V. Gowthaman, Sun TV’s chief technical officer S. Kannan and electrician L.S. Ravi who were earlier arrested by the agency in the case. The Madras High Court has granted bail to them.

The CBI officials also said Maran was asked if he had pressured BSNL officials to install these lines.

The CBI launched its investigation in 2011 – nearly four years after the matter surfaced. In 2007, the agency had recommended action to the then telecom secretary but nothing happened.

Rajnish Singh / IANS