Ponzi scam: Supreme Court seeks response from telecom providers on CBI’s plea

The probe agency had asked for crucial call data records from Bharti Airtel and Vodafone

The Supreme Court on Friday sought a response from telecom service providers Bharti Airtel Limited and Vodafone Mobile Services on a CBI plea that they were met with “surprisingly and strangely evasive” replies to repeated requests for crucial call data records in connection with the probe into multi-crore ponzi scam cases, including the Saradha group scandal.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi issued notice, returnable by April 8, to the two companies.

"This allegation is completely wrong. We have given everything to them," senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, for Vodafone, submitted.

The CBI said it has been writing to the two service providers for the call records of certain mobile phone numbers since last year.

The agency said it specifically wanted to know what was the period for which the call records were requested by the West Bengal Police. Secondly, it wanted to know the period for which the call records were “actually supplied” by the two service providers to the West Bengal Police.

‘Call records tampered’

The CBI has repeatedly alleged in the Supreme Court that the West Bengal government-appointed Special Investigation Team, of which former Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar was functional head, had delayed handing over the call records of influential accused persons by 14 months. The call records, when checked, were found to be incomplete and “tampered”. The CBI has filed a contempt of court case against Mr. Kumar, the West Bengal Chief Secretary and the State’s police chief for violating an apex court order directing the State Police to fully co-operate with the CBI in the Saradha and other chit fund scam investigations.

In its application, the CBI said it was “extremely germane” to know what the West Bengal Police had asked for from the two telecom service providers and what was given to the police by them.

“It is extremely germane for adjudicating the contemptuous acts of the contemnors to ascertain whether the CDRs of the entire period sought for by the West Bengal Police were accordingly provided by the service providers or whether, despite being in possession of the complete CDRs for the entire period from 2012 to 2013, the West Bengal Police chose to share only limited CDRs with the CBI,” the application explained.

The application submitted that “till date”, despite communications from the Centre, the service providers have not shared the information.

It said Vodafone finally replied on February 12, 2019 and it failed to “disclose the relevant information” sought by the agency. Airtel replied in February and March 2019, but their response is “conspicuously silent”.

The CBI urged the Supreme Court to direct both companies to part with the information sought along with complete record of the requests made by the West Bengal Police and the email ids from which they were sent, etc.

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