In an exceptional development, all blamed in the three cases related to the 2G spectrum allocation “scam”+ have been absolved by a special CBI court on Thursday. Deciding the fate of all blamed, including former telecom minister A Raja and DMK leader Kanimozhi Karunanithi, the court opined, “Absolutely no hesitation in holding that the pursuit has miserably failed to prove any charge against any of the blamed, made in its well choreographed charge sheet.” In its detailed judgments, running into a couple of thousand pages, the court has dissected the different aspects of the problem and the role alleged against the blamed.
The CBI had claimed that Raja had arranged his own way of granting telecom licences, brushed aside the first-come-first-served principle, misled the (then) Prime Minister, disregarded the concerns of other ministries and ran a parallel office at home to grant licences to whosoever offered him pleasure.
The then Prime Minister angle
The court observed problem of grant of licences and issuance of letter of intent (LOI) by changed criteria, which was defended by Raja, was not placed before the then Prime Minister at the right time. It was alleged that on November 2, 2007 Raja wrote a letter to the then Prime Minister, misrepresenting the facts and fraudulently justifying his decision regarding the cutoff date of September 25, 2007 on the ground that on this date the statements of cut-off date appeared in newspapers. He allegedly also misled the Prime Minister and incorrectly stated the opinion of the Ministry of Law and Justice to refer the matter to Empowered Group of Ministers (EGOM) to be out of context.
The court asked when the letter was duly discussed and considered by the Prime Minister, and no one from the PMO has been examined as a witness nor the relevant files with processing notes have been produced before the court, how can one say that the facts were misrepresented or that the Prime Minister was misled regarding the opinion of Law Minister for referring the matter to EGoM? “There is no material on record to signify that the Prime Minister was misled or the facts were misrepresented to him,” opined the court.
‘Unclear spectrum guidelines’
in court’s view, the lack of accuracy in the policies as well as spectrum allocation guidelines also added to the distraction. The guidelines, it said, were been framed in such technical language that meaning of many terms are not clear even to Department of Telecom (DoT) officers. “When the officers of the department themselves do not understand the departmental guidelines and their glossary, how can they blame companies/ others for violation of the same,” noted the court.
For the court, the “worst thing” is that despite knowing that the meaning of a specific term was ambiguous and may lead to issues, no steps were taken to rectify the situation. “This continued year after year. For example, in the urgent case, large part of the controversy relates to interpretation of clause 8, dealing with substantial equity. The terms utilized in this clause include “associate”, “promoter”, “stake” etc., No one in the DoT knows their meaning, despite the fact that the guidelines were framed by the DoT itself. The interpretation of these words is haunting the DoT since these words were first utilized, but no steps were taken to assign them a particular meaning. In such circumstances, DoT officers themselves are responsible for the entire mess,” asserted the court.
The CBI alleged that Raja received illegal gratification of Rs 200 crore for the favors shown by him to Swan Telecom Pvt Ltd in the matter of grant of 13 spectrum licences and allocation of spectrum in the year 2008-09. The alleged kickback was received through a channel of different companies. The money was paid by companies of DB Group through partnership firm Dynamix Realty, Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables (P) Limited and Cineyug Films (P) Limited, which was basically parked in Kalaignar TV (P) Limited.
Facing the money laundering charges were, 19 accused, including Raja, Kanimozhi, businessmen Shahid Balwa and Asif Balwa, and nine companies. The court found no essential to discuss other problems based on evidence led by the parties, as that would amount to futile exercise. “The very basic fact needed for constitution of an offence of money laundering, is knocked out,” the court observed.
The second CBI case
The other CBI case included blamed Essar group’s Ravi Kant Ruia, Anshuman Ruia and Vikas Saraf, and Loop Telecom’s IP Khaitan and Kiran Khaitan and three companies. The CBI alleged Loop TelecomLimited was a company of Essar group or was substantially controlled by it and as such it was not eligible for applying UAS licences. But the court noted that the CBI could not prove that Loop Telecom Limited was a company of Essar group or was essentially controlled by it, there can be no false representation. As a result, the charge of cheating was dropped. In addition, the court also held that the pursuit was unsuccessful in proving any of the ingredients either of the offence of scheme to cheat DoT or of the substantive offence of cheating.