India

India ex-telecoms minister A Raja granted bail

Former Indian Telecom Minister, and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party lawmaker Andimuthu Raja, right, waves to the media at his official residence in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, May 15, 2012.
Image caption Mr Raja was met by cheering supporters on his release from Tihar jail

A court in India has granted bail to former Telecoms Minister Andimuthu Raja after 15 months in jail.

Mr Raja is accused of mis-selling telecoms licences, which auditors say cost the country about $40bn (£24.5bn).

Prosecutors say he changed licences' eligibility criteria to favour certain firms in exchange for bribes in 2008. Mr Raja has denied all the charges.

The telecoms scandal is India's biggest corruption scandal and has badly damaged the government's reputation.

Mr Raja, who was arrested on 2 February last year, is among 14 people charged in connection with the scandal, often referred to as the 2G spectrum case.

Top executives from several telecoms firms are among those charged. They all deny wrongdoing.

The 49-year-old former minister walked out of Delhi's high security Tihar jail to be met by cheering members of his DMK party, who set off crackers to celebrate his release.

'Ground of parity'

Mr Raja was present in court on Tuesday morning when the court granted him bail.

"The bail application is allowed," Press trust of India [PTI] quoted judge OP Saini as saying.

Mr Raja, who is an MP from the regional DMK party, was ordered to deposit 2m rupees ($37,200; £23,116) for his bail.

The court also barred him from visiting his home state of Tamil Nadu or the office of the telecoms department.

He was ordered "not try to influence any witnesses while on bail".

This is the first time Mr Raja had applied for bail.

He had sought bail on the "ground of parity" as the 13 other people accused with him have already been released on bail either by the Supreme Court, the Delhi High Court or the trial court.

The court said that since all his co-accused had already been granted bail, Mr Raja's detention would not serve any purpose.

India has the world's fastest growing mobile market, with more than 900 million subscribers.

In February, the Supreme Court cancelled 122 telecommunications licences awarded to companies in 2008 during Mr Raja's tenure.

The court ruling is a source of further embarrassment for the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which has been hit by several high-profile corruption cases in recent months.

More on this story