The 2G case judgment must be taken at face value
It should not be conflated with the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision cancelling all 122 telecom licences at the centre of the scameditorials Updated: Dec 21, 2017 21:02 IST
The vindication that some political parties, and some of the accused, are expressing in the wake of the 2G judgment acquitting all accused should not be conflated with the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision, cancelling all 122 telecom licences at the centre of the scam.
The special court’s judgment on December 21 was on three cases that together constitute the 2G scam. One says there was a criminal conspiracy by then telecom minister A Raja and several others to perpetrate the scam; another says Loop Telecom was a proxy for the Essar Group, allowing the latter to bid for licences and spectrum in violation of existing rules; and a third says Raja and his associates laundered Rs 200 crore of scam-proceeds. The first two cases were filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation. The third was filed by the Enforcement Directorate. It is these three cases that the special court has ruled on. Judge OP Saini said he is acquitting all the accused because the prosecution hasn’t managed to present any evidence to back its case. Indeed, in his order he has been severely critical of the prosecution’s inability to do so — which, once again, asks the same questions of the investigative processes of the CBI and the ED that have been asked before.
This judgement, though, has nothing to do with the Supreme Court’s decision to cancel 122 licences. The Supreme Court can rule on anything, even government policies, and in the 2G case, it decided that there was enough proof to show that there were irregularities in how licences and spectrum has been issued in 2008. Back then, there was a lot of ad-hocism about this, especially the allocation of spectrum, a critical national resource. The apex court’s decision was not based on whether or not there was a criminal conspiracy to defraud the exchequer, but on irregularities it saw in the process by which licences and radio waves were allotted. Indeed, in some ways, it was this decision that prompted the move to an auctioning regime for spectrum. This system has been in place for a few years now, and several batches of spectrum, including 3G and 4G radio waves have been allocated on its basis. But irregularities and ad-hocism do not a scam make, which is why Saini’s order has to be taken at face value. It is now up to the CBI and the ED to, on appeal, make a better case in the High Court than they did in the lower court.