CBI court to pronounce verdict in 2G scam case, fate of several political leaders and top India Inc hangs in balance

21 December 2017, 07:18 AM
Former telecom minister A. Raja, one of the main accused in 2G scam case (PTI photo)
Former telecom minister A. Raja, one of the main accused in 2G scam case (PTI photo)

A special court will pronounce judgement on 2G spectrum scam case on December 21. Former telecom minister A. Raja, DMK chief M Karunanidhi’s daughter M. K. Kanimozhi and former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura are main accused in this case along with others.

Unitech managing director Sanjay Chandra and bollywood producer Karim Morani have also been charge sheeted in the case and are out on bail.

CBI filed charge sheet in the 2G scam case on April 2, 2011.

The 2G scam case gained notoriety in 2010 when the then Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) Vinod Rai came out with a report that the 2G spectrum was allocated at throwaway price causing a loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer.

Interestingly, in its charge sheet CBI has said that the scam caused a loss of Rs 22,000 crore to the exchequer.

However, CAG figures were quoted all over the world and in India. The scam became front page news in all leading newspapers globally. The Time Magazine called it the second biggest instance of the abuse of executive power — just a notch below Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal.

In India, it became a big political issue and it helped in creating public opinion against the UPA government. It was one of the factors that were responsible for UPA losing elections.

2G spectrum scam explained

How it started?

In January, 2008, the former telecom minister A. Raja issued licences and allotted 2G spectrum of 4.4 MHz along with it to six new telecom operators at the 2001 price. The ministry charged only Rs 1,650 crore from an operator for Pan India spectrum.

What are the charges against Raja?

Initially, Raja was accused of allotting spectrum on first-come-first-served (FCFS) basis to new operators. It was alleged that instead of FCFS, if the spectrum was auctioned the government could have earned much higher revenue. This is how CAG came to conclusion that the exchequer lost Rs 1.7 lakh crore.

Interestingly, CBI charged Raja, former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura and private secretary R. K. Chandolia, for not following the FCFS policy. CBI alleged that the department of telecommunications (DoT) introduced a cut off date, which was later advanced to suit a few players.

In a FCFS process, there should not be any cut off date. Priority of applications is determined based on its date of receipt at the communications ministry. However, DoT changed it to the date of compliance to the letter of intent (LOI).

What is Raja’s defence?

Raja’s defence is that he allotted spectrum on FCFS basis as it was the policy. His argument was that if he had changed the policy and auctioned spectrum, customers would have to pay higher price for telecom services.

On irregularities in implementation of FCFS process, he said that introduction of cut off date didn’t change the order.

Who are prominent accused in the scam and how much time they have spent behind bars?

A Raja (former telecom minister) – 15 months in jail

M. K. Kanimozi (Rajya Sabha MP and daughter of DMK chief M Karunanidhi) – 6 months in jail

Siddharth Behura (former DoT secretary) – 15 months

R. K. Chandolia (IAS and former PS to telecom minister) – 11 months

Sanjay Chandra (MD, Unitech Wireless) – 7 months

Gautam Doshi (MD, Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group) - 7 months

Shahid Balwa (promoter, DB Realty and Swan Telecom) - 10 months

Vinod Goenka (promoter and managing director, DB Realty and swan telecom) – 7 months

A Delhi court had on December 5 fixed December 21 for pronouncement of judgment in the 2G scam case. The court had asked all the accused to be present on the judgement day.

Judgement will be pronounced in two cases related to the scam - one is of corruption charges and the other is under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

First Published: Wednesday, December 20, 2017 06:33 PM
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