~By Rajesh Kumar
On April 26, special judge OP Saini, having heard all arguments since 2016, reserved his verdict in the 2G spectrum allocation scam. The case involves the then Union Telecom Minister A Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi and others. There are three cases in all, two filed by the CBI and a third filed by the Enforcement Directorate.
In the first case of CBI, those facing trial included Raja and 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) and others.
Beside these, three telecom firms—Swan Telecom Pvt. Ltd. (STPL), Reliance Telecom Ltd and Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu) Ltd. are also facing trial in the case.
In the chargesheet as filed in April 2011 against A Raja and others, the CBI had alleged that there was a (notional) loss of Rs 30,984 crore to the exchequer in allocation of 122 licences for 2G spectrum which were scrapped by the Supreme Court on February 2, 2012.
The Court has recorded the statements of 154 CBI witnesses, including Reliance ADAG Chairman Anil Ambani, his wife Tina Ambani and former Corporate Lobbyist Niira Radia.
The offences on the accused invite punishment, if proved ranging from six months in jail to life imprisonment.
In the second CBI case, those who face trial are Essar Group Promoters Ravi Ruia and Anshuman Ruia, Loop Telecom promoters, Kiran Khaitan, her husband IP Khaitan and Essar Group Director (Strategy and Planning) Vikash Saraf.
Three firms, Loop Telecom Ltd, Loop Mobile India Ltd and Essar Tele Holding Ltd (ETHL) were also chargesheeted.
The ED, in its case, had filed a chargesheet in April 2014 against 19 people, including Raja, Kanimozhi, Shahid Balwa, Vinod Goenka, Asif Balwa, Rajiv Aggarwal, Karim Morani and Sharad Kumar in connection with a money laundering case relating to the scam.
In its chargesheet, ED also named DMK Supremo M Karunanidhi’s wife Dayalu Ammal as accused in the case in which it alleged that Rs 200 crore was paid by STPL promoters to DMK-run Kalaignar TV.
The final report named 10 individuals and nine companies as accused in the case and the ED has chargesheeted them for the offence of money laundering under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
It is important to note that the Court asked all the parties to file by July 5 any additional documents they wished to.
There are various factors that stand out in the discussion on evidence. One, the shoddiness of the prosecution. If a simple timeline of events had been constructed, it could have averted the embarrassment of attributing to D Maran decisions that were taken after he had demitted office.
The judge managed to find several instances of oral evidence relied upon by the prosecution, contradicting the evidence recorded on the file, including on matters such as whether files were stuck at the level of the minister or before they had reached him.
Two, the apparent eagerness of officials in the telecom hierarchy to say and do things they believe would please the powers that be. That a former senior official is no longer alive comes in handy for them to blame him for all kinds of real or deemed transgressions, claiming they acted on his oral instructions. They should be charged with perjury.
Three, there is an urgent need for government decision-making to become all-electronic, so that all communications have an audit trail and stapled sheets of paper and penciled remarks go out of the picture.
It is expected that the final verdict on these cases would be pronounced in July 2017.