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Rs 70,000-crore 2G scam: SC tells govt to respond

Last updated on: October 8, 2010 21:00 IST

Rs 70,000-crore 2G scam: SC tells govt to respond

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The Supreme Court on Friday asked the government to respond to the CAG report that points towards large-scale irregularities and favouritism allegedly by Telecom Minister A Raja in the Rs 70,000-crore (Rs 700 billion) 2G spectrum allocation scam in 2008.

A Bench comprising Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly asked Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium to go through the draft report alleging that the ministry of telecom ignored the advice of the law ministry and the prime minister and allotted the license by favouring 'ineligible' companies at the lower rate on first-cum-first basis by arbitrarily deciding the cut off date.

The Bench posted the matter for October 22 without perusing the status reports filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate into the investigations in the case.

It returned the reports filed in sealed covers to both the agencies stating that it will consider them during the next date of hearing.

Raja was represented by senior advocate T R Andhyarujina who was asked to be supplied with the copy of the CAG report.

Earlier, Subramanium said he would like to allay any apprehension that investigations would not be fair. "We are bound to conduct a fair investigation," he added.

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Image: Telecom Minister A Raja is in the eye of the 2G spectrum storm.
Photographs: Reuters
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However, he said it would be premature to say anything at this stage about the final conclusion of the investigations in which more than one government agency is involved.

The Solicitor General said an FIR relating to the scam was registered against unnamed persons a year ago and the matter has undergone judicial scrutiny in the Delhi high court and the Apex Court.

"Today we have a situation where co-ordination is required between the CBI and the other government agencies like ED, Income Tax department, etc," he submitted and pleaded that six months time be granted for a comprehensive probe.

He said the transcript of the tape involving telephonic conversation between several persons, including corporate lobbyist Nira Radia and some journalists, have to be examined as it has a bearing on the allocation of 2G spectrum.

However, advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO which has alleged financial irregularities by Raja in connivance with certain middlemen, including Nira Radia, alleged that the probe by the CBI was not fair as even after the registration of FIR a year ago, none of the persons has been interrogated or arrested.

He said neither Raja nor Radia has been interrogated or arrested till now despite the tapped conversation clearly throwing sufficient light on their alleged involvement in the scam.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Further, the Income Tax officer, who was handling the transcript of the tapped conversation and was co-ordinating with the CBI, has been transferred, he alleged.

Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy, who has sought the court's direction to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to sanction prosecution of Raja for his alleged involvement in the 2G spectrum scam, said he would prove the allegations made by him.

He said there are chances that CBI probe into the scam will be scuttled.

Bhushan supplied to the Bench the extract of the CAG report mentioning that Swan Telecom, owned by Reliance Communications, benefited although it did not meet the eligibility criteria on the date of the application.

According to the CAG report, the scam has caused a loss of approximately Rs 1.40 lakh crore (Rs 1.40 trillion) to national exchequer.

He said the allegations made by the NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation, in the petition has been endorsed by the CAG report that the prices were arbitrarily fixed at the rate which was prevalent in 2001 for the spectrum allocation in 2008.

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Photographs: Reuters
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The CAG report has said that there has been 'consistent favouritism to ineligible applicant' and 'undue benefits to Reliance Communication'', he submitted.

The Apex Court is hearing two petitions on the issue. The first petition was filed by CPIL on which notices were issued to the Centre, Raja, CBI, ED and Income Tax department.

The second petition has been filed by Swamy challenging the Delhi high court order which rejected his plea to give direction to the prime minister to grant sanction to prosecute Raja on the ground that it was premature to pass any order as the investigation is being carried on by the CBI.

In response to the notices issued on the petition of CPIL, CBI and ED have filed their affidavit stating that they were not in a position at this stage to confirm or deny charges that Raja was involved in the alleged Rs 70,000-crore scam.

However, ED has said the investigations were on against the companies that allegedly violated foreign exchange norms in the 2008 award of telecom licences.

The Bench had on September 13 wanted to know how the CBI did not know against whom the investigations were on despite continuing the process for several months and filing an FIR against unnamed telecom ministry officials.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Replying to this, the CBI had said it was probing the matter in a 'fair and impartial' manner and that it was not in a position at this stage to deny or agree with the charges.

Reacting to the petition filed earlier this month, Raja had said that the entire controversy was politically motivated.

Along with Raja, the names of certain public servants, middlemen and Radia have surfaced for their alleged involvement in the conspiracy for granting Unified Access Service (telecom) licences.

The ED affidavit said the alleged FEMA violations by Loop Telecom and Essar Group was being looked by ED on the basis of specific written complaints.


Image: Telecom Minister A Raja.
Photographs: Reuters
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