In the landmark 2G Spectrum scam case, all the accused including former Telecom Minister A. Raja, and the former Rajya Sabha MP and daughter of former Tamil Nadu chief minister Karunanidhi, Kanimozhi have been acquitted.
The verdict pronounced by the Special Judge O.P. Saini, which states that the prosecution could not prove substantially the offences in the charge sheet filed by the CBI about three and a half years ago, may also offer temporary reprieve to the Congress and the DMK. The case made out against them was that by helping the telecom companies out of the way to grant the licence for rolling out 2G spectrum to the subscribers, they caused a loss of crores of rupees to the state treasury. But the indications given by political sources is that this scam, dubbed as the greatest the country has seen, will not be frozen with the verdict and that upper courts will still have to consider an appeal. And the CBI and Enforcement Directorate both have made it clear they will go in appeal to the Delhi High Court. In other words the political debates triggered by the 2G corruption case will rebound with greater force, as underlined by certain political statements and tweets that emerged within hours after the verdict.
India has 22 telecommunication zones covered by 281 zonal licences. The central government decided to allocate 122 new 2G UAS (Unified Access Service) licences to telecom entities at the rates that prevailed in 2001. And they were allocated by Raja and his colluders in a manner that threw to the winds all norms and criteria of the Telecom Regulatory Authority. Later several of these licences had to be withdrawn. As per the report of Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) the estimated loss of revenue through this deal was estimated at Rs 1.75 lakh. It was when the content of the report came out through the media that the 2G scam gave rise to heated political debates eventually leading to the resignation of A. Raja. The most striking part of the process was that Raja and his accomplices ignored even the prime minister's instruction to reject the applications that were received in violation of the criteria. The central finance ministry too had expressed displeasure at Raja's action. The media reports of the time had made clear that there was ample prima facie evidence of fraud and abuse of power. This was also corroborated by the charge sheet filed by CBI and Enforcement Directorate. If so, what could be the reason for the failure of the prosecution case in the court? In any case, there is no reason to believe that there was no corruption in the 2G deal even of a single rupee. If despite the presence of clear evidence in the charge sheet the same has not been adequately presented before the court, it has to be probed whether there was some other conspiracy behind this.
The case had a no insignificant all role in bringing down the UPA government and in easing Modi's accession to power. For, the BJP had used corruption allegations like the 2G scam as its chief ammunition in the 2014 general election. In this background, a criticism has already been raised that the CBI did not treat this prominent case with the required diligence. The deposition by Anil Ambani, who was one of the star witnesses in the case, should have helped the prosecution case, and he was expected to depose against his own employees. But what Ambani informed the court was that he could not recollect everything that took place in his office as he was suffering from memory loss. That same 'amnesia' which afflicted Ambani is continuing even today. And the stances taken later by the then CAG Vinod Rai are equally puzzling. Congress leader Kapil Sipal, has also demanded that Vinod Rai should apologize. And we find Vinod Rai becoming one of Modi's own men after his retirement, and he was made the head of Banks Board Bureau in departure from all precedents. Now he is also at the helm of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Under these circumstances, one cannot entirely discard the then Congress leadership's narrative that the CAG report was politically motivated.
One of the promises given by Modi was that on assuming power he would make the CBI more powerful. It is such a CBI that has lost miserably in the court. Even BJP leader Subramania Swamy has accused that the government had faulted in handling the case. He has also added that it is not a government with such an approach that the people await - which shows that bickerings have started within the ruling party itself. If this is the position of the government even in a case against its chief rival political party, one has to view its promises during the election campaign against corruption and regarding Lok Pal bill, as just political sermons. India ranks among the most corrupt countries. If, in spite of that politicians are not punished, it is solely because of such an approach. If the 2G spectrum has to be saved from meeting with the same fate, there has to be a transparent and effective probe and follow up action in the matter.