A special court conducting the trial of the accounting fraud at erstwhile Satyam Computer Services Ltd will announce the date of verdict on 30 October, nearly six years after corporate India’s biggest scandal came to light.
Additional chief metropolitan magistrate B.V.L.N. Chakravarthi on Monday said he will announce the date of judgement on Thursday, and directed all the 10 accused, including former Satyam chairman B. Ramalinga Raju, to appear before it that day, two lawyers present inside the court hall said.
The judge will also hear last minute arguments from the defence challenging the authenticity of some of the electronic evidence presented by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) that investigated the fraud.
The defence has filed a memo before the court pointing out that some of the electronic evidence submitted against Raju and the other accused was inadmissible because it was not retrieved in accordance with provisions of the Evidence Act.
“We have already presented a memo in this regard. The judge will hear our views that day,” Ramakrishna Raju, a lawyer in Ramalinga Raju’s defence team said.
Raju’s lawyers are relying on a Supreme Court judgement delivered last month that ruled that electronic evidence not documented properly were inadmissible in the courts. The three-judge bench held that electronic records submitted as evidence should comply with the Evidence Act.
The ruling meant that electronic evidence such as phone call records, electronic mails (emails) and bank statements submitted as hard copies to a court should be verified as authentic.
“Sections 65A and 65B of Evidence Act lay out the special procedure for offering electronic evidence in a court. Section 65B requires the person responsible for the computer on which the electronic record was created or stored to issue a certificate establishing the authenticity of any electronic evidence,” said constitutional lawyer Bhairav Acharya who practices in the Supreme Court of India.
“They are saying that electronic documents were not retrieved in accordance with the laws of the country,” a CBI prosecutor said. The CBI has submitted some electronic records such as bank records, email conversations as hard evidence in the court.
The investigating agency has accused former Satyam chairman B. Ramalinga Raju of inflating revenues, fabricating invoices, falsifying accounts and income tax returns, and faking fixed deposit receipts in collaboration with some of his key executives, to paint a rosy picture of the company’s financials to deceive the public.
His actions, along with the nine other accused, caused a loss of Rs.14,000 crore to Satyam shareholders, the CBI estimated in its chargesheet.
Once the poster boy of the Indian outsourcing industry, Raju confessed to fudging Satyam’s accounts to the tune of Rs.7,136 crore in January 2009 – a statement he disowned during the trial. A total of 216 witnesses and 3,038 documents were examined during the hearing of the case.
The verdict , when it’s finally pronounced, will decide the fate of prime accused Raju and his brothers, B. Rama Raju (then managing director of Satyam) and B. Suryanarayana Raju, along with some former executives – former chief financial officer Srinivas Vadlamani, former chief internal auditor V.S. Prabhakar Gupta, G. Ramakrishna, D. Venkatapathi Raju and Ch. Srisailam.
Two former employees of external auditor Price Waterhouse, T. Srinivas and Subramani Gopalakrishnan are also standing trial. Price Waterhouse is an affiliate of PricewaterhouseCooper’s in India.
Four former Satyam executives – Ramalinga Raju, Rama Raju, Srinivas and Gupta – have also been barred from the capital markets by Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) for 14 years, and have been ordered to cough up Rs.1,848.93 crore with 12% interest from 2009 (totalling about Rs.2958.29 crore) for pocketing “wrongful gains” in share transactions.
The Rajus have challenged the Sebi order.
Besides the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has also filed a chargesheet against 213 people including Raju and 166 firms including Satyam Computer under different provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), and attached different properties belonging to them. Satyam Computer has been absorbed by its new owner Tech Mahindra Ltd, which purchased the scandal-ridden firm in 2009 in a government overseen auction.