2G: The Scam That Wasn't?
The prosecution appears to have mixed up a lot of issues, such as criminality and wrong policies, leading to the case losing its focus. The prosecution seems to have unnecessarily waded into issues, like loss to the exchequer because of not auctioning spectrum. This is a matter of policy, and investigators can go nowhere if they try to pursue this matter and link it up with criminality.
In the end, the much-hyped 2G scam seems to have come to nought. Last month,
the Special CBI Court acquitted all the 17 accused in the spectrum allocation scandal - including A Raja, the former telecom minister in the erstwhile UPA government, DMK leader M Kanimozhi and 15 others.
Billed as one of the country's largest scams, the 2G scandal, along with the coal scam, had come to represent all that was corrupt and inept with the previous UPA government. The then UPA government had ordered a CBI inquiry into a bunch of cases, which together were referred to as the 2G scam. The CBI investigation was monitored by the Supreme Court to ensure that there was no political interference.
The CBI had alleged that allocation of 122 licences for the spectrum had cost the exchequer Rs 30,894 crore. It had accused Mr Raja of taking bribes to change norms arbitrarily to benefit companies and individuals. And then there was the CAG's fancy number of Rs 1.76-lakh crore loss to the exchequer, based on the 3G auction price. These figures are, at best, notional value.
The CBI was right in trying to link corporate dealings between companies connected to the DMK leaders and entities that received 2G licences. But it fell woefully short of proving that these dealings were criminal in nature. None of these allegations could convince the court. Delivering the verdict, Justice Saini pulled up almost every arm of the government that had played a role in the 2G cases. The judge was scathing in his attack on telecom ministry officials, CBI investigators and even the high-level officials of the PMO. On the CBI, Justice Saini minced no words and ruled that "the prosecution has miserably failed to prove any charge".
So, how did such a high-profile case, which, in fact, played a major role in pulling down the UPA government, fall flat in the court of law? The prosecution appears to have mixed up a lot of issues, such as criminality and wrong policies, leading to the case losing its focus. The prosecution seems to have unnecessarily waded into issues, like loss to the exchequer because of not auctioning spectrum. This is a matter of policy, and investigators can go nowhere if they try to pursue this matter and link it up with criminality.
The 2G scam hit the Indian telecom sector very hard, and it is yet to recover from that shock. The February 2012 verdict of the Supreme Court cancelled 122 licences of eight telecom companies for being part of a flawed allocation process. The telecom sector has seen massive upheavals since then, with several firms exiting the business, thousands of jobs lost and crores of rupees worth of assets stuck in bad loans. With some of the companies that had lost their licences now planning to appeal against the apex court order, the aftershocks of the verdict will continue to reverberate for some time to come.
Finally, the 2G scam always had strong political undertones. The BJP, which was then in the opposition, was successful in milking the scam and riding to power. The CBI Court's verdict has now put the ruling BJP-led NDA government on the back foot. The Congress Party and the DMK are now arguing that their no-scam stand is vindicated by the CBI Court's ruling. Political sparring can only go this far with justice relegated to the background.
The Centre has decided to appeal against the CBI Court's verdict. A quick appeal and a swifter closure to this controversial case are in the best interest of the telecom industry, the economy and the nation at large.
2G scam: A complex case of notions and reality