New Delhi, Mar 14: A CBI special court in Chennai today acquitted former minister Dayanidhi Maran, his brother and Sun TV network owner Kalanidhi Maran, and five others in the illegal telephone exchange case. Special judge Natarajan said he was discharging the seven as prima facie, there was no evidence to prove the charges against them. The CBI had alleged that during June 2004 and December 2006, Dayanidhi, who was the Union Minister for Communication and Information Technology, misused the office to install a private telephone exchange at his Chennai residences and facilitated usage of high speed data lines for business of Sun network, causing losses to BSNL in Chennai and MTNL in Delhi.

CBI had claimed then that the state exchequer registered a loss of Rs 1.7 crore. It filed the chargesheet late last year under IPC sections related to criminal conspiracy and forgery and under Prevention of Corruption Act. CBI had alleged that the private telephone exchange installed at Dayanidhi’s residences comprised over 700 telephone lines but no bills were raised. Earlier, in February, opposing the discharge petition filed by the Marans and others, the agency had insisted that it had enough evidence to prove the case against them.  Their counsel Kapil Sibal had claimed they were innocent and a case had been fabricated against them.

Among others who were let off by the court today were BSNL general manager K Brahmanathan, former deputy general manager MP Velusamy and Dayanidhi’s private secretary Gauthaman.