Graft case: Apex court grants bail to Sukh Ram, two others

New Delhi, Jan 9: The Supreme Court Monday granted interim bail till Jan 16 to former telecom minister Sukh Ram, 84, who was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment in a 1993 telecom scam case. Two other accused were also given bail.

Sukh Ram surrendered before the trial court Saturday to undergo the imprisonment after the apex court Thursday asked him and two other accused to do so before their plea for bail could be heard.

On Monday, the apex court bench of Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice J. Chelameswar granted interim bail to Sukh Ram, Runu Ghosh, ex-deputy director-general of the department of telecommunications (DoT), and Hyderabad-based businessman P. Rama Rao till Jan 16 when their plea for regular bail would be heard.

The court also issued notice to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on their plea for bail in the scam which involved award of a contract to the Hyderabad firm for supplying telecom equipment to the government at exorbitant rates.

In December 2011, the court upheld the two years’ jail sentence awarded to Ghosh and three years’ jail term awarded to both Sukh Ram and Rao.

After surrendering before court Saturday, Sukh Ram was taken to Tihar Jail. From there he was shifted to Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital after jail doctors said that his condition was serious and could not be treated in the jail hospital.

Appearing for Ghosh, senior counsel Harish Salve told the court that the trial court had held that Sukh Ram took the requisite decision and if that was so then where was the question of his client entering into a conspiracy in awarding the contract to Hyderabad based company for the supply of equipment.

Salve told the court that ‘if an officer makes a favourable noting and the minister rejects it then where is the question of obtaining advantage’.

The senior counsel told the court that as a minister Sukh Ram was entitled to overturn the opinion expressed by the officials and this could be an honest exercise of his authority.

Justice Sathasivam observed that ‘as a minister he may be right but he has to give reasons (for not accepting advice given by officials)’, adding that on the file there was some noting.

Suggesting that the matter could have been referred to a committee, the court said that there were committees in the ministries to deliberate such matters.

As court wanted to hear the investigating agency before considering the plea for bail, Salve and other defence lawyers told the court that their clients were on bail since 1996 and that should be continued.

Sukh Ram is accused of showing undue favour to a cable supply company and accepting Rs.300,000 as bribe when he was a minister.

In 2002, he was awarded a three-year jail term under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

In another case, he was held guilty of possessing disproportionate assets worth Rs.4.25 crore in 2009.