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HindustanTimes Fri,26 Dec 2014

2G: Behura says Vahanvati gave false statement

PTI  New Delhi, May 06, 2014
First Published: 21:33 IST(6/5/2014) | Last Updated: 21:37 IST(6/5/2014)

Former telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura on Tuesday accused attorney general GE Vahanvati of giving false statement against him, saying he did so to "disassociate" his role in formulation of the revised first-come-first-served (FCFS) policy for distribution of the 2G spectrum licences.

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Deposing before the special 2G court, Behura claimed that Vahanvati, who was the then solicitor general (SG) in January 2008, had also given false statement regarding the draft press release about issuance of letters of intent (LoIs) to eligible telecom firms.

"The SG's (Vahanvati's) main concern is to disassociate himself from any involvement in formulation of the revised FCFS policy as stated....In his evidence, SG, therefore, has made a false statement that I (Behura) made a telephonic call to him asking him if there was any stay and also asked him to confirm the same in writing, to which he agreed and thereafter I went to see him along with the file.

"He (Vahanvati) has further made a false statement that I showed him a draft press release and none of these is borne out from record," Behura told Special CBI judge OP Saini.

Behura's deposition assumes significance as the CBI had alleged in its charge sheet that the amendment in the press release "led to redefining the concept of the first-come-first serve on the basis of priority in submission of compliance of the LoI against the established practice of priority in order of receipt of application".

Vahanvati had earlier deposed as a CBI witness in the case in which Behura along with others are facing trial.

Vahanvati had told the court that he was only supposed to give his opinion on the draft press release as sought by the Department of Telecom (DoT) and it was not for him to tell the department as to "what they did was wrong".

During the recording of his statement, which concluded today, Behura claimed, "CBI has not even attributed any mens rea to me to suggest that I could be involved in any illegal act for benefit of myself, or my family members or any other person to benefit."

He also said that he did not have "any social, cultural and ethnic association" with former telecom minister A Raja and he had "no financial or professional benefit from him".

Behura also told the court that the CBI has shown "utter lack of understanding of government functioning" and he has been falsely implicated in the case. He said all "my actions were bonafide and done in normal course of my official duty."

"There was no reason for me in my last posting prior to retirement, to conspire with a Minister to provide illegal gains to anyone, let alone someone I didn't even know," he said, adding, "There is no allegation of receipt of any illegal gratification against me."

He also claimed that CBI's decision to charge him for such criminal offences has sent "shock waves" within the bureaucracy where it is referred to as "Behura Syndrome".

"Strangely, others who were associated with the decision making process have been cited as witnesses to depose against me while I have been arraigned as an accused in this case.

"I could not have been made an accused, if the prosecution had taken into account that their oral evidences are contrary to Manual of Office Procedure to which these witnesses were bound to follow," he said.

He claimed that he has been made an accused in the case only because he was the telecom secretary at that relevant time but most of the policy decisions were approved prior to his appointment as the secretary.

On being asked as to why some CBI witnesses had deposed against him, Behura said, "In the course of investigation, the prosecution has found certain actions/lapses which were considered incriminating for the concerned witnesses/officers of DoT."

"The simplest way to absolve themselves of any wrong doing was to shift the responsibility for their action to the Secretary of the department, that is, me in order to implicate me in a manner desired by the prosecution," he said.

Regarding the issue of entry fee, he said that a decision on this matter was taken before he had joined the DoT.

During the day's proceedings, the court also recorded the statement of co-accused RK Chandolia, the then private secretary to A Raja.


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