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In an embarrassment to the CBI, a court here today refused to initiate proceedings to declare Malaysian nationals Ralph Marshall and T Ananda Krishnan as absconders in the Aircel-Maxis deal case saying it was not clear whether they deliberately evaded the summonses.
This is the second setback to the probe agency in the case as Special CBI Judge O P Saini had on February 2 discharged former Telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran, his brother Kalanithi Maran and two firms for want of incriminating material.
The court today also adjourned the case sine die (with no appointed date for resumption) since it felt that the chances of execution of warrant against Marshall and Krishnan were very bleak.
In its order, the court said that the Malaysian government refused to serve the summonses to the accused residing there. However, there was no material to indicate that they were responsible for this stand of Government of Malaysia or that they were in the know of these proceedings.
"Where there is no material to indicate that the accused are deliberately evading the process of the court and even the warrants have not been received back as unexecuted, there is no question of having reason to believe that the accused have absconded," it said.
Marshall was Director of M/s Maxis Communications Bhd., Malaysia and M/s Astro All Asia Networks Plc, UK while Krishnan was having the majority shareholding in both companies. Both the firms are also accused in the case.
While adjourning the case, the court noted that apart from the two accused persons, the Malaysian government has refused to carry forward the summonses on to the two accused firms also for want of dual criminality.
The CBI has also not taken any step in the last one year for ensuring that the summonses are served on these two accused companies, it said.
"In such a fact situation, the only way out is to consign the case sine die to Record Room awaiting the execution of warrants or voluntary appearance of the accused before this court," the court said.
It also asked the CBI to think a way out to serve the summonses on the companies "as the State cannot be absolved of its responsibility to effect the service of a court process".
"The prosecution would be at liberty to get the case revived as and when any of the accused is arrested or any four of them make voluntary appearance before the court," it said.
The CBI had filed a charge sheet against the four accused, along with Maran brother and two firms -- M/s Sun Direct TV (P) Limited (SDTL) and M/s South Asia FM Limited (SAFL) -- on August 29, 2014.
The charge sheet was for offence of criminal conspiracy under the IPC and under relevant provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The court had issued summons against the Malaysia based accused on October 29, 2014.
The summonses were issued four times but returned unserved as the Malaysian government refused to cary forward them.
Thereafter, on September 24, 2016, the arrest warrants were issued against both the accused persons. The court also ordered separate trial of the four Malaysia based accused and those from India.
It had noted that appearance of those based in Malaysia may take a long time leading to a delay in the proceedings.
However, on February 2 this year, Maran brothers and two firms -- SDTL and SAFL -- were discharged for want of incriminating material.