2G spectrum scam verdict out: All accused including A Raja, K Kanimozhi acquitted

2G spectrum scam verdict out: All accused including A Raja, K Kanimozhi acquitted

A special court today acquitted all 18 accused including A Raja and K Kanimozhi in 2G spectrum allocation case. The scam came to light almost seven years ago when India’s auditing agency Comptroller and Auditor General or CAG in a report held then Telecom Minister A Raja responsible for causing the state exchequer a loss of Rs 1,76,379 crore by allocating 2G spectrum licences at throwaway prices. But, today the court found that the prosecution failed to prove the charges.

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11:09 AM: Senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy in a tweet said the government must prove its bonafides by filing an immediate appeal in the High Court.

11:05 AM: “One thing is clear that the allegations of a major scam involving highest levels of government was not true or correct,” Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram said after the acquittal of A Raja and Kanimozhi in the 2G spectrum scam case.

11:00 AM: Kapil Sibal says Congress’ stand vindicated. 

10:55 AM: An elated Kanimozhi, outside the court, said, “I would love to thank everyone who stood by me.”

10:45 AM: All accused including A Raja, K Kanimozhi acquitted in 2G spectrum case. “The prosecution has miserably failed to prove its case, and all accused are acquitted,” Judge OP Saini reportedly said.

9:30 AM: Former Telecom Minister A Raja and DMK MP Kanimozhi reach Patiala House court ahead of pronouncement of verdict in 2G scam cases.

In its report, which was tabled in Lok Sabha on November 16, 2010, the CAG said that A Raja ignored the advice of the Ministry of Law and the Ministry of Finance and allocated ‘a scarce finite national asset at less than its true value on flexible criteria and procedures adopted to benefit a few operators’. The auditing agency further observed that politicians and government officials colluded with telecom companies to under-charge them for telecom spectrum allocated in 122 licences in 2008.

The act of A Raja and others not only rocked the nation but also made to the TIME magazine’s ‘Top 10 Abuses of Power’ list.  Currently, the scam is being probed by two investigating agencies: Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate. Today’s judgment will be based on 8000-page charge sheet filed by the CBI. Among the key accused in the case are:  then Telecom Minister A Raja,  Rajya Sabha MP and DMK leader M Kanimozhi and then telecom secretary Siddharth Behura. If convicted, the accused could be awarded with minimum 6 months of imprisonment to life imprisonment. Special Judge O P Saini will deliver the verdict at 10:30AM.

Here’s how the case unfolded:  

The CAG audit estimated the loss was Rs 1.76 lakh crore. The CBI filed 80000 page charge sheet and said the loss was Rs 30,985 crore only.

The CBI charge sheet said bribes paid to favour firms in granting 2G spectrum licenses. Accused firms are Unitech Wireless, Swan Telecom, Reliance Telecom, Loop Telecom,  Loop Mobile India, Essar Tele Holding and Essar Group.

The CAG said licenses given to ineligible companies and those who had no experience of telecom such as Unitech and Swan Telecom.

In November, 2007, PM Manmohan Singh wrote to telecom minister A Raja asking for transparency in 2G allotment and to revise the licence fee. Raja did not accept the view.

Finance Ministry also wrote to Department of Telecom raising procedural concerns. The letter was ignored.

Case based on a PIL filed by The Centre for Public Interest Litigation against the Union of India alleging irregularities in awarding 2G spectrum & licenses.

The Supreme Court later cancelled 122 licences calling them ‘unconstitutional and arbitrary’ and asked for a re-bid in February, 2012.

The apex court imposed a fine of Rs 5 crore each on Unitech Wireless, Swan telecom and Tata Teleservices and Rs 50 lakh fine on Loop Telecom, S Tel, Allianz Infratech and Sistema Shyam Tele Services Ltd.

The top court said Raja favoured “some companies at the cost of the public exchequer” and “virtually gifted away important national asset”

Then Union Minister Kapil Sibal rejected the CAG’s findings. However, his “zero loss theory” was demolished on August 3, 2012. On the directions of the Supreme Court, the Government of India revised the base price for 5 MHz 2G spectrum auction to Rs 14,000 crore, which roughly gives the value of spectrum to be around Rs 2,800 crore per MHz which is close to the CAG’s estimate of Rs 3,350 crore per MHz.

In April 2013, in a 112-page written statement to the joint parliamentary committee, Raja said that he met with P. Chidambaram and Prime Minister Singh several times from November 2007 to July 2008 to inform them of all 2G-related decisions and PM Manmohan Singh agreed with him.

After one year of trial in Nov 2013, 77 of 154 witnesses have been deposed.

There are 2 cases on 2G scam before CBI special court of OP Saini: One by Central Bureau of Investigation under IPC, Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act. Second by enforcement directorate, ED, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

The offences would mean punishment ranging from 6 months of imprisonment to life imprisonment.

Those who have been discharged by court so far:

  • In 2015,  the court discharged all accused in the 2002 additional telecom spectrum scam: then telecom secretary Shyamal Ghosh, Bharti Cellular, Hutchison Max Telecom (Vodafone India Ltd) as well as Sterling Cellular Ltd (also bought by Vodafone).
  • In February 2017, the CBI special court also discharged former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran and his brother Kalanithi Maran from allegations that Dayanidhi forced Aircel’s Sivasankaran to sell his stake to Maxis Communications owned by of Ananda Krishnan.
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