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SC: Raja ignored PM’s advice on 2G
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, December 1
The Supreme Court today said that former Telecom Minister A Raja had violated the collective responsibility of the Cabinet by “brushing aside” the advices of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the ministries of finance and law in the matter of allocation of 2G Spectrum in 2008 at 2001 prices.

Citing the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) that estimated the presumptive loss to the government at Rs 1.76 lakh crore, a Bench comprising Justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly pointed out that the Prime Minister had responded to Raja the day he received the minister’s letter. In that communication, the Prime Minister had expressed his reservations over the move to allocate spectrum and wanted the Telecom Ministry to follow a “fair and transparent” procedure.

“It is a question of collective responsibility and opinion” which was given a go-by by Raja by “over-ruling, bypassing or brushing aside” the advice of the Prime Minister, the Bench remarked. The judges also pointed out that the ministries of law and finance had advised the Telecom Ministry to refer the Spectrum issue to the empowered Group of Ministers (eGoM), while the law ministry had also suggested that the highest law officer (Attorney General) should be consulted.

After making these observations, the Bench sought the opinion of Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium on the aspect. “The reservations expressed by the Prime Minister, the highest executive authority, ought to have been given a lot more importance,” the SG concurred.

Observing that “these are the requirements of collective responsibility in a democracy,” the Bench clarified that the court was for “transparent functioning.

The government department has to function reasonably and predictably. If it is not predictable, it is not reasonable.”

The Bench also questioned the logic of giving 45 minutes to telecom companies for collecting the letter of intent on January 10, 2008. “By what standard it is transparent…It can qualify only for microscopic transparency. Does it not appear to be very unusual,” the Judges asked the SG, who argued for the telecom department (DoT).

The SG agreed that the CBI, which was probing the alleged scam, should investigate the actions of some individuals. He clarified that his arguments were focused only on the “redeemable part” of the case. At this, the court remarked that “nothing can redeem this (giving 45 minutes).”





Hand over Radia tapes, govt told

Niira RadiaThe Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the government to hand over the original recordings of the alleged conversations corporate lobbyist Niira Radia had with several bureaucrats, politicians and journalists. A Bench comprising Justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly issued the order on a plea by a PIL petitioner in the 2G scam case. The petitioner, the Centre for PIL (CPIL), had contended through its counsel Prashant Bhushan that the devices containing the conversations, intercepted by the Income Tax Department for checking evasions, might go missing the way the files relating to Mumbai’s Adarsh Housing Society meant for Kargil war victims had disappeared.

The court said the original recordings would be preserved in a sealed cover for use in the 2G case, if necessary. Radia was a consultant for the Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), the Tata group and other leading industrial houses. The recordings were somehow leaked to the media recently, sparking a nation-wide public debate. The SC Bench had remarked that the kind of “pollution” of Indian polity exposed by the tapes was akin to the pollution of the Ganga and other rivers.



Rs 1.76 lakh-cr loss speculative: Raja
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, December 1
Former Telecom Minister A Raja today argued in the Supreme Court that the “mind-boggling” figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore estimated by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) as the “presumptive loss” in the allocation of 2G Spectrum was “totally speculative” and could not “stand judicial scrutiny”.

Arguing for Raja before a Bench of Justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly, senior counsel TR Andyarujina said his client had been a victim of unfair media trial to such an extent that he was not in a position to regain his image. He said that the CAG report was not the final word as it was subject to the scrutiny of the Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee. The CAG findings were not supported either by facts or the regulatory body (TRAI), which consisted of experts, Andyarujina said.

It was unfortunate that the PIL had sought SC monitoring of the CBI investigation in the “2G spectrum scam.” Pointing out that according to dictionary the word “scam” meant “swindle, fraud,” the counsel said the use of the “powerful, emotive word” along with the CAG estimate had “blown the whole thing out of proportion.”

While Raja, accused of issuing 122 licenses in 2008 at 2001 prices, had become Telecom Minister on May 15, 2007, his predecessors (Arun Shourie and Dayanidhi Maran) had given 52 licenses between 2002 and 2007 by following the same policy, Andyarujina argued.



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