A Raja, Kanimozhi, others acquitted in 2G spectrum case
A Special CBI court acquitted former telecom minister A Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi and all other accused in the 2G scam case that had rocked the Manmohan Singh-led UPA-II government.Updated: Dec 21, 2017 23:42 IST
A special court acquitted all 35 accused in the so-called 2G scam case and criticised the prosecution for its failure to prove any of the charges in a move that both the Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) see as a vindication of their stand.
Special judge OP Saini, who has overseen the trial of all 2G spectrum cases since early 2011, said on Thursday that his seven-year wait for evidence ended “all in vain” because the case was mainly based on “rumour, gossip and speculation”.
The 2G scam roiled the UPA in its second term and became a campaign issue in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. After the verdict, Congress MP and former telecom minister Kapil Sibal demanded an apology from former Comptroller and Auditor General Vinod Rai and the BJP, maintaining there was “zero loss” in the allocation. “I have been vindicated today. In fact it is Vinod Rai who must apologise to the nation,” he said.
Those acquitted include: former telecom minister A Raja; Rajya Sabha member and DMK leader K Kanimozhi, former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura; Raja’s erstwhile private secretary RK Chandolia; Swan Telecom promoters Shahid Usman Balwa and Vinod Goenka; Unitech Ltd MD Sanjay Chandra; three top executives of Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (RADAG), Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair; Asif Balwa and Rajiv Agarwal, the directors of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd; Kalaignar TV director Sharad Kumar; and Bollywood producer Karim Morani. Three telecom firms, Swan Telecom Pvt Ltd (STPL), Reliance Telecom Ltd and Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu) Ltd, were also acquitted, as were the Ruias of the Essar Group.
The 2G scam dates back to 2008 when some telecom companies were alloted licences and allocated spectrum. There were allegations that the cut-off date for submissions was changed to help some of the applicants; that the first-come first-served rule was tweaked to suit a few telcos; that Swan and Unitech were ineligible to apply but allowed to; and that a payoff of ?200 crore was made by Kusegaon Fruits to Kalaignar TV, promoted by the family of DMK supremo MK Karunanidhi.
The controversy captured public imagination after the government auditor CAG?said in a report that the notional losses to the state on account of irregularities was Rs 1.76 lakh crore.
The CBI made its first arrest in the case in 2011. Separately, in response to a public interest litigation, the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the allotment of licences and allocation of spectrum in 2008 was “unconstitutional” and “arbitrary” and cancelled 122 licences. Those licences stay cancelled. The Supreme Court’s move paved the way for the auctioning of spectrum, and also resulted in a consolidation in the telecom business.
Thursday’s judgment by the special court says there is no evidence of any criminality by any of the accused.
Reading out the verdict in the courtroom, Saini said, “I have absolutely no hesitation in holding that the prosecution has miserably failed to prove any charge against any of the accused, made in its well choreographed charge sheet.”
“There is no evidence on the record produced before the Court indicating any criminality in the acts allegedly committed by the accused persons relating to fixation of cut¬off date, manipulation of first¬come first¬served policy, allocation of spectrum to dual technology applicants, ignoring ineligibility of STPL and Unitech group companies, non¬revision of entry fee and transfer of Rs. 200 crore to Kalaignar TV (P) Limited as illegal gratification,” the court said in its verdict.
The court said there was no evidence to show Raja was the “mother lode of conspiracy” in the case, nor that he misled Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
“It has been repeatedly proven that the presumptive loss to the exchequer which formed the basis for the conspiracy theorists to run amok, was cooked up,” Raja said after the verdict. “My firm belief in the rightfulness of my actions as well as my faith in our nation’s justice system has been validated today.”
Criticising the investigation by CBI, Saini recorded “there was no expeditious investigation in this case. After registration of the case, for more than a year, almost nothing was done in the case and then suddenly all the witnesses were recorded one after the another as if the investigators had all of a sudden gained all the knowledge of the case and the witnesses had also become source of all the information. This puts a question mark on the truthfulness of the prosecution case and lends credence to the theory of pressure on the witnesses.”
The special court also slammed the Special Public Prosecutor appointed by the Supreme Court for his role in conducting the case. It said, “In the beginning, the prosecution started with the case with great enthusiasm and ardour. However, as the case progressed, it became highly cautious and guarded in its attitude making it difficult to find out as to what prosecution wanted to prove. However, by the end, the quality of prosecution totally deteriorated and it became directionless and diffident. “
The court concluded that the” suspicion of grave wrongdoing, where there was none” was primarily created because of the “ non-understanding of issues in proper perspective” as “documents are not traceable easily and readily and policy issues are scattered haphazardly in so many files”.
Sources in the ED said the agency plans to appeal against the verdict in the high court.