2G spectrum verdict: Why did the prosecution's case fall flat?
A special CBI court acquitted former telecom minister A Raja, DMK RS MP Kanimozhi and other corporate honchos in the 2G spectrum case. Justice OP Saini declared that the 2008 scam was "conjectured" by "artfully arranging a few selected facts and exaggerating them." He slammed the prosecution for "failing miserably" in proving the case. Why did the case fall on its face? We elaborate.
What is the 2G scam?
The 2G scam had become the linchpin of corruption that flourished during UPA. Raja, DMK nominee in Manmohan Singh's government, allegedly awarded 122 telecom licenses in 2008 at 2001 rates. This reportedly cost the exchequer a loss of Rs. 1.76Lcr. Raja also tweaked spectrum allocation rules to favor certain companies like Shahid Balwa's Swan Telecom and Sanjay Chandra's Unitech.
Did Raja favor Swan and Unitech?
However, in his judgment, Saini invalidated major allegations for lack of proof. About Raja favoring Balwa and Chandra, Saini refused to rely on Raja's former private secretary Achary's oral statement. Achary claimed the two met several times and knew each other since Raja's environment-minister days. Saini slammed the prosecution for failing to provide a "single appointment chart or vistor's register" that recorded the meetings.
Cut-off date was changed; first come, first serve policy subverted
Regarding the changing of the cut-off date, Raja gave reasons: many applications were pending and speculative players had to be discouraged. Saini held that these were "good reasons" and Raja alone cannot be blamed. About the first come, first serve policy, Saini observed that prosecution failed to provide evidence that this policy was being followed by DoT in a specific manner.
Why couldn't CBI prove Rs. 200cr kickback to Kalaignar TV?
Another allegation that a Rs. 200cr kickback went from DB Realty-owned Swan Telecom to DMK's Kalaignar TV could not be proved. This might be because several letters of request (LR) were pending. An LR is a court request made to a foreign court and processed by the external affairs ministry to obtain information. Further, LRs take years to be processed, affecting the investigation's pace.
A Raja didn't mislead PM Manmohan Singh!
Saini slammed CBI for giving several incorrect facts in the chargesheet. Further, Saini's judgment contradicted the assumption that Raja kept ex-PM Singh in dark. Instead, he blamed Singh's PMO, ministries of finance and law and DoT officers for not providing complete facts.
However, some questions still remain unanswered
However, despite the special court's judgment, some questions remain unanswered. Why was the spectrum not auctioned in the first place? Eligibility criteria indicate that 85 of the 122 licenses given were to non-eligible applicants. So why was the eligibility criteria not followed? Despite PM and finance ministry raising objections to licenses being given at 2001 prices, why was their suggestions ignored?
What does this judgment indicate?
BJP used the public fury from this scam to paint UPA as a corrupt regime. This was one of the reasons for their victory in 2014 LS. Now, this order, however, bolsters Congress spirits. It also raises questions about CAG Vinod Rai's report that unearthed the scam. Probe agencies may appeal against the verdict; but, without new evidence, it will meet a similar end.