Former telecom minister A Raja, a key accused facing trial in the 2G spectrum case, on Monday sought to drag Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's name in a Delhi court by saying that all actions were taken with his "concurrence" and not "unilaterally".
File photo of former telecom minister A Raja during an interview with Hindustan Times.
"I did not take any unilateral decision, but acted on the proposals of DoT and discussions with other cabinet ministers and the then solicitor general and after properly apprising the Prime Minister and taking his concurrence. My actions do not amount to abuse of official position or any other offence," Raja told special CBI judge OP Saini.
Deposing before the court, Raja said that monitoring of 2G scam probe by the Supreme Court led the CBI to investigate the case in a "predetermined manner" and there was no loss to the exchequer as claimed by the probe agency.
He also told the court that the "flawed" CAG report made the whole issue "sensational" and there was complete ignorance of policy formation and government functioning by the officers investigating the case.
"I was not given an opportunity of hearing by the Supreme Court. The flawed CAG report made the issue sensational without even taking into account the views of the DoT and without properly appreciating Government policy and procedure," he said.
"There was a complete ignorance of policy formation and Government functioning by the investigating officers. The monitoring of the investigation by the Supreme Court led to the CBI investigating the case in a predetermined manner and fabricating oral evidence, since there was no documentary evidence to support the prosecution. Adverse media publicity also contributed to the case against me," Raja said.
He told this to the court while recording his statement as per the provisions of the CrPC. The court concluded recording of Raja's statement during which 1,718 questions were posed to him.
On being asked as to why some of the prosecution witnesses had deposed against him during recording of their testimonies earlier, Raja said that they had "done so under fear of being made accused in this case."
He claimed there was a cartel among old GSM operators and their interests would have been seriously affected by entry of new operators which would have led to reduction of tariffs.
"I have acted throughout in public interest in accordance with the law, regulatory framework and Government policy, and not for any personal gains. There has been no loss to the exchequer and on the contrary, tariff has come down and tele density has increased manifold, leading to public savings as well as increase in revenue share of the Government," he said.
Raja also alleged that "old GSM operators were also taking advantage of non-disclosure of availability of spectrum and sharing spectrum among themselves and preventing new competition, which was opposed by me."
He told the court that he had acted as per recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and had increased competition in the market.
Raja also said there was a "disagreement" among different arms of the Government like Parliament, Cabinet, the PMO, Planning Commission, TRAI, ministry of law and Justice, ministry of finance, CBI and CAG which led to "institutional conflicts on key issues such as NTP-99, Cabinet decision of 2003, UASL Guidelines, Indian Telegraph Act, Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act and various TRAI recommendations till 2010."
"On key issues such as the interpretation of NTP-99, the Union Cabinet has not accepted the interpretation given by the Supreme Court, as evident in the Presidential Reference made to the Supreme Court itself," he said, adding, he would lead evidence in his defence.
On being asked about the allegations of former corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, a CBI witness in the case, regarding allocation of 2G licences to accused company Swan Telecom Pvt Ltd, Raja said he had approved the grant of licences to any firm only after its file was "proposed" by the DoT.
"I had approved the grant of licences to any company only after the same had been examined and proposed by the department. I am not aware as to on what basis PW 126 (Radia) has deposed on this issue," he said.
Radia, during her deposition before the court earlier, had said that Swan Telecom Pvt Ltd, whose promoters Shahid Usman Balwa and Vinod Goenka are also co-accused in the case, was ineligible to secure the costly radiowaves.
Regarding the allegations that he had purportedly altered provisions of the Unified Access Service Licences (UASL), Raja said, "I have never issued any order altering the provisions of UASL Guidelines, nor was any such thing ever proposed to me by the department."
On CBI's allegation that Shahid Usman Balwa and co-accused Sanjay Chandra, MD of Unitech Ltd, used to meet Raja earlier when he was Minister of Environment and Forests, the former Telecom Minister said, "it is normal for heads of business to meet the Minister and it is part of discharge of the functions of the minister."
He, however, clarified that he "do not recall" if he had met Shahid Balwa and Sanjay Chandra.
The recording of statements of other accused will continue on Tuesday.
The stage for the recording of evidence of Raja and 16 other accused, including DMK MP Kanimozhi, was set earlier when the court had supplied a draft questionnaire containing running into 824 pages to the accused.