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Spectrum scam: SC notice to Raja, CBI, DoT

Last updated on: September 13, 2010 20:53 IST

Spectrum scam: SC notice to Raja, CBI, DoT

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A Correspondent in New Delhi


The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre and Union Telecom Minister A Raja for a response on a plea urging the court to monitor a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into alleged irregularities in the 2008 sale of 2G spectrum licences.

A bench, comprising Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly, sent notices to the telecom ministry and Raja and asked for replies within 10 days.

The bench also issued notices to the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax department on the petition filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, an NGO, and others.

The petitioners challenged the May 25 decision of the Delhi high court dismissing its plea to monitor the CBI probe into the alleged role of the Union communications minister in the sale of 2G spectrum licences in 2008.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for CPIL, alleged that despite having documents showing an alleged nexus between Raja and others, the CBI was not going ahead with the probe in the matter.

The petitioners alleged that the DoT, under the ministership of Raja, had given away 2G spectrum to 122 operators at a throwaway price of Rs 1,658 crore (Rs 16.58 billion) for pan-India licences on a first-come-first-served basis in January, 2008. Raja was expected to take the auction route for allotting the 2G licences to telecom service providers, they said.

Just last week, the Bharatiya Janata Party had alleged that efforts are on to scuttle the Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the 2G spectrum allocation scam.

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Image: Telecom Minister A Raja.
Photographs: Reuters
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Spectrum scam: SC notice to Raja, CBI, DoT

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The BJP had said that it feared that the new Central Vigilance Commissioner, P J Thomas, might put a damper on the probe 'using a law ministry note, that he secured when he was the telecom secretary, which says that the allocation of airwaves is part of policy that cannot be questioned.

Claiming to have 'dug up' the details about former telecom secretary Thomas's role in keeping corruption watchdogs like the CVC and Comptroller and Auditor General away from probe into irregularities concerning the 2G spectrum allotment, the BJP had circulated a document in this regard to the media.

The document was related to a query of the Department of Telecommunication and the response of the Union law ministry that the spectrum allocation is a policy decision of the government which cannot be challenged by the CVC or the Comptroller and Auditor General.

The speed with which the note was moved from table to table to obtain signatures of Telecom Minister A Raja and P J Thomas, among others, within three days from August 10 to 12 and the law ministry's immediate response on August 13 show the hurry with which the government wants to bury the 'mega-Bofors scam' (maha-Bofors ghotala), BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar had charged, while releasing the documents purportedly prepared to thwart the probe.

Javadekar wondered if the documents were got ready three weeks ahead of Thomas becoming the CVC to enable him to act on them to scuttle the probe and 'rescue A Raja from the charge of the massive corruption'.

The law ministry note apparently agrees with the DoT that the spectrum allocation undertaken in 2008 that kicked up a big row with allegations of the exchequer having lost a whopping Rs 60,000 crore to Rs 1 lakh crore (Rs 600 billion to Rs 1 trillion) was part of the New Telecom Policy approved by the government in 1999 and as such CAG or CVC cannot sit in judgement on the policy decisions.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Spectrum scam: SC notice to Raja, CBI, DoT

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"CAG, CVC and other watchdogs no doubt play a very significant role in any democracy, but they being constitutional/statutory functionaries cannot exceed the role assigned to them under the Constitution or law. Even the courts refrain from questioning the wisdom of the government in policy matters, unless the policy decision is patently arbitrary, discriminatory or malafide," the law ministry had said in its seven-page response to DoT, citing various Supreme Court rulings.

The BJP had then said that, "If the theory propounded by the law ministry at the instance of DoT, whose many officers are already in the CBI net, is accepted to discontinue the probe into the 2G scam, there should be no surprise if the same yardstick is used to stop any probe into the massive rackets of fund misuse."

The BJP spokesman said that there was a design behind the first attempt being made to close all probes against the 2G scam and then use the same logic to rule out probes against all mega scandals of the government.

Pointing out that Telecom Minister A Raja has time and again in his defence claimed that he was working under the guidance of the Prime Minister, Javdekar said, "He also made the prime minister a co-accused in the worst scam."


Photographs: Reuters
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