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2G spectrum verdict: Why the case fell flat

Former telecom minister A Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi and all other accused were acquitted in the 2G spectrum allocation scam cases by a special court in New Delhi.

india Updated: Dec 21, 2017 21:50 IST
P Suchetana Ray
Former telecom minister A Raja leaves the Patiala House Courts after being acquitted by a special court in the 2G spectrum case, in New Delhi.
Former telecom minister A Raja leaves the Patiala House Courts after being acquitted by a special court in the 2G spectrum case, in New Delhi.(PTI Photo)

Special judge OP Saini, who oversaw the trial of all 2G spectrum cases since early 2011, said on Thursday that India’s federal investigators could not prove allegations of criminality against the accused in the case.

“I have absolutely no hesitation in holding that prosecution has miserably failed to prove any charge against any accused,” Saini told a packed courtroom.

Though the probe agencies, CBI and Enforcement Directorate, have both confirmed they will appeal against the verdict, legal experts said that without any new evidence of criminality, it will be difficult to cut ice with the court.

The case related to irregularities in the allotment of licences and the allocation of spectrum in 2008. In 2012, in response to a public interest litigation related to this, the Supreme Court cancelled 122 licences.

“A key ingredient in proving criminality would be evidence of gratification. There were none,” senior defence counsel Rebecca John told HT.

In fact, apart from the Rs 200 crore alleged kickback that went through a maze of companies from the DB Realty to DMK’s Kalaignar TV, CBI could not establish that any more bribes were paid in the case, which, according to its first chargesheet, caused a loss of Rs 30,000 crore to the exchequer. And even the trail of the Rs 200 crore alleged kickback could not be established.

A top official in the ED said that there are several letters rogatory (LR) or letters of request pending in the 2G case. These pertain to allegations of bribes that changed hands between Raja and the telecom companies he allegedly helped in getting 2G licenses. Answers to them would help the agencies take the case forward.

An LR is a formal request issued by a competent court to a foreign court and processed by the ministry of external affairs on behalf of the investigative agencies to obtain information about individuals and entities.

“We have an LR pending with Switzerland. It is to probe if there was a quid pro quo between Reliance Telecom and Raja,” said the ED official cited above. He added that their probe has been severely handicapped by the pace of CBI’s investigation.

Even the joint parliamentary committee in 2013 had commented on the “snail’s pace” at which the CBI was moving.

“In 2011 and 2012 CBI had sent a host of LRs but several remain unanswered to this date. Based on answers to the first LR subsequent LRs are filed, this process takes years. Only one query can be answered in one LR, so you can imagine how long one aspect of a probe will take if crucial evidence lies abroad,” said a former CBI official who was involved in the 2G probe.

Saini also pointed to several incorrect facts in the chargesheets by the CBI.

“I may add that many facts recorded in the charge sheet are factually incorrect, like finance secretary strongly recommending revision of entry fee, deletion of a clause of draft LOI (letter of intent) by A Raja, recommendations of TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) for revision of entry fee etc,” the judge said.

Since the allegations of irregularity surfaced against the former telecom minister, it has been held by investigators that A Raja misled the prime minister on ways of allocating the 2G spectrum licenses. But Saini is his judgement contradicts this.

“It is clear that complete facts were not placed before the then Prime Minister by his own office, for which A Raja cannot be faulted,” he said.