Aircel-Maxis Case: As CBI gets sanction from centre to prosecute, NSE Chairman Ashok Chawla resigns

As per revised rules, senior government officials covering positions of joint secretary and above cannot be prosecuted without the approval of the Centre, whether or not the officials are still in active service.

On Friday, Ashok Chawla resigned as the chairman of the National Stock Exchange(NSE) hours after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) informed the court that the Centre has granted sanction to prosecute him in the Aircel-Maxis case.

According to the reports, the CBI on Friday had submitted before a special CBI court that it had got sanction from the government to prosecute five bureaucrats, including few serving officers for their alleged involvement in the Aircel-Maxis case. Following the centre’s sanction for prosecution, Ashok Chawla resigned from the post of NSE Chairman.

The NSE has issued a statement on Friday night saying, “Public Interest Director/ Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Stock Exchange of India Ltd with immediate effect in light of recent legal developments”.

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Addition to Chawla, Former economic affairs secretary- Ashok Jha, Kumar Sanjay Krishna, a former joint secretary in the finance ministry, Dipak Kumar Singh, a former director in the finance ministry and Ram Sharan, former under-secretary in the finance ministry have also been under the scanner for their alleged role in the Aircel-Maxis deal. Reportedly, out of the five, three are still serving working with various government departments while other two have retired.

Earlier, the special court had granted two months time to the CBI to obtain the necessary sanction from the centre to prosecute the officials. As per revised rules, senior government officials covering positions of joint secretary and above cannot be prosecuted without the approval of the Centre, whether or not the officials are still in active service.

Ashok Chawla, former finance secretary had taken over as the chairman of the NSE on March 28, 2016. Prior to his appointment, he had also served as civil aviation secretary and chairperson of the Competition Commission of India (CCI), among other roles. Chawla quit as Yes Bank chairman in November last year.

The CBI in July had filed charge sheet against former Union minister P Chidambaram, his son Karti and other 10 individuals, including few public servants and six companies for their alleged irregularities and criminal conspiracy in the Aircel-Maxis deal case.

The Centre had also given approval to the CBI to prosecute former union minister P Chidambaram. The CBI also informed the court they have additional evidence to prove that P Chidambaram and his son Karti Chidambaram closed bank accounts in foreign countries after charge-sheet was filed in the case.

The CBI is probing alleged irregularities in grant of FIPB approval in Aircel-Maxis deal, while the ED is probing alleged money-laundering related to the deal. It is accused that Chidambaram misused his capacity as finance minister in the UPA government to illegally grant FIPB approvals, and in exchange his son, Karti Chidambaram was given kickbacks.

The FIPB approval was given to Malaysia’s Maxis for buying Indian telecom company Aircel for ₹3,500 crore in 2006. According to FIPB rules applicable at that time, Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) should sanction foreign investment of such value, but the approval was given by the Finance Minister without referring it to CCEA. After the FIPB approval, Aircel allegedly paid Karti ₹26 crore through a company linked to him.


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