The Supreme Court has expressed concern that investigating agencies had sidelined tapped conversations between corporate lobbyist Niira Radia with top politicians, businessmen and others, which were not just restricted to the issue of 2G spectrum, but were also about serious matters such as “cross-border” transactions.
A bench headed by justice GS Singhvi expressed concern that the agencies had sidelined multiple issues arising out of the recorded conversation.
“The issue of 2G spectrum and telecom are among multiple matters contained in conversations of Radia with businessmen, politicians and others,” said the court, adding, “The tapped conversations reflect that middlemen are virtually present in every nook and corner of government.” Agreeing with the court, senior advocate and CBI counsel KK Venugopal said that it was a “widespread malaise” that needed to be examined.
It wondered why various investigating agencies preferred to stay silent on the multiple issues arising out of the conversations and just focused on those portions that pertained to the 2G scam. Some parts of the conversation were also regarding takeover of a particular company, the bench noted. The court’s observation came while it was hearing Ratan Tata’s plea claiming publication of some portions of the transcript violated his right to privacy.
Subsequently, the court had directed the CBI and IT department to submit all the transcripts and had constituted a team of investigators, including CBI officers, to examine the contents of the conversations. The court’s observation on the nature of conversations has come after the team submitted its report, pointing out there was an element of criminality in the tapes.
SC has already made it clear that a further CBI probe was required into the element of criminality highlighted by the team. NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) has also sought the court’s direction to the government to make the conversations public.
The conversations were recorded as part of surveillance of Radia’s phone on a complaint to the finance minister on November 16, 2007 alleging that within a span of nine years, she had built up a Rs 300 crore business empire.