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2G probe: SC asks why Raja is still a minister
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

If it is necessary, I can (quit) but where is the necessity… I have been told by the Department of Telecom that the hearing has been postponed for another date, so I would not like to make any comment.

— Telecom Minister A Raja

New Delhi, October 29
The Supreme Court today slammed the UPA government for letting Telecom Minister A Raja continue in office despite the serious allegation of a Rs 70,000 crore scam in the allocation of 2G Spectrum in 2008.

“The same minister is continuing. Is it the way the government is functioning? Is it rule of law? You follow the same standard in respect of every one,” a Bench comprising Justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly remarked.

The advice for adopting the “same standard” is viewed as a swipe at the government for adopting a different yardstick for Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor while asking him to quit earlier this year for alleged misuse of office. Tharoor had reportedly helped his friend, Sunanda Pushkar, get a stake free of cost (sweat equity) in the Kochi franchise of cricket’s Indian Premier League (IPL). Incidentally, Tharoor married Sunanda shortly after his unceremonious exit.

The Bench made the remarks while hearing arguments on a PIL filed by an NGO, Centre for PIL, which has pleaded that the SC monitor the investigations into the scam.

Arguing for the CPIL, Counsel Prashant Bhushan said the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) were unduly taking a long time to probe the issue. Raja had not even been interrogated by the CBI despite the fact that many of the irregularities pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) were incontrovertible, he said.

At this, Raja’s counsel AR Andyarujina said the petitioner was sensationalising the case. The minister had gone ahead with the 2G allocation at 2001 prices instead of taking the auction route only after Cabinet’s approval, he contended. Further, the CAG had submitted only its “draft” audit report and not the final report.

When Additional Solicitor-General (ASG) Haren Raval, who appeared for the CBI and the ED, contended that the investigations were proceeding in the “right direction,” the Bench pointed out that already “one year has gone by.” As the ASG sought some more time to complete the probe, the Bench retorted, “How long will you take. Another 10 years?” The ASG said “within six months.”

Describing the probe “very slip-shod,” the Bench told the CBI: “You are dragging your feet.” The ASG, however, maintained that the CBI was doing a difficult work. “The records will show the enormity of the material and the complex issues involved. We have examined more than 5,800 telephone calls” relating to the scam. The Bench asked the ASG why the Spectrum was allocated at 2001 prices. Raval said he did not know why because he was not appearing for the DoT. Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium, who represents the Centre and the DoT in the case, was not present in the court as he had reported sick.





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