A CBI special court trying the 2G spectrum case witnessed high drama on Wednesday with main accused and former telecom minister A Raja yelling at attorney general GE Vahanvati, who deposed as a prosecution witness, and calling him a liar.
“The attorney general has been telling a lie and I was in jail. Let me die but I want the truth to come out. Every decision was taken after consulting him,” Raja said as his lawyer cross-examined Vahanvati in a packed courtroom.
In his testimony, Vahanvati accused Raja of fudging a January 2008 press release on 2G spectrum allocation cleared by him (as solicitor general then) that is at the root of the alleged subversion of the first-come-first-served policy.
This is the first time an AG for India has appeared as a witness in a criminal case.
According to the CBI chargesheet filed on April 2, 2011, Raja used the press release to arbitrarily change the eligibility criteria for allocation of 2G spectrum to favour select telecom companies and to manipulate the first-come-first-served policy. He is accused of illegally advancing cut-off dates for spectrum application and issuing licences in 2008 at 2001 prices, causing the exchequer a loss of Rs. 1.76 lakh crore.
The DMK leader — who is out on bail after more than a year in Tihar jail — is charged with criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, cheating, forgery, accepting bribe and misuse of office. There are 18 other accused in the case, including DMK MP Kanimozhi and many corporate bosses.
Vahanvati told the court that on being presented the draft press release by telecom secretary and co-accused Siddharth Behura, he gave the opinion that it was in order. "But it was altered later," he added.
Vahanvati said Raja's letter to the PM regarding the department of telecommunication's policy to be adopted for 2G spectrum allocation was not based on discussions with him and then external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, who then headed a group of ministers on telecom policy.
Raja's counsel Sushil Kumar asked Vahanvati to prove from any of the documents the deletion by Raja of a crucial paragraph from the press release, which according to the AG said that if more than one applicant complied with the letter of intent condition on the same date, seniority should be decided by the date of application.
"A press release announces only a decision already taken. A new policy cannot be set out for the first time in a press release. This has to find prior mention in any of the documents, like in a letter to the government or a department file or at least a note," Kumar told Vahanvati.
The AG, whose cross-examination will continue Thursday, replied: "Exact reproduction of this portion is not there verbatim in my note but the substance is very much there. It is wrong to suggest that even the substance of scored off portion is not there in my note."