Raja was impolite to PM: Supreme Court

Friday, December 17, 2010

NEW DELHI - A Supreme Court verdict directing court monitoring of the CBI probe into the 2G spectrum scam has revealed the impolite language that sacked communictions minister A. Raja had used in a communication to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Raja, in his November 2, 2007 communication, had rejected Manmohan Singh’s suggestion to auction 2G spectrum to new telecom applicants on the ground that such a policy would be “unfair, discriminatory, arbitrary and capricious”.

The former minister also said that auctioning of 2G spectrum would deny a level playing field to new entrants vis–vis the existing telecom operators.

The auctioning of 2G spectrum to new applicants was apparently one of the five issues that the prime minister had raised in his note that accompanied his letter to Raja on November 2, 2007.

During its December 2, 2010 proceedings, a Supreme Court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly had taken serious exception to the usage of words by Raja in his communication to the prime minister, also on November 2, 2007.

The court, during its proceedings, had pulled Raja for not being “temperate” and showing “disrespect” to the prime minister.

The judgment also reveals Raja’s anxiety to push through with the grant of 2G spectrum at 2001 prices when he disregarded not only the finance and law ministries but even postponed the meeting of the Telecom Commission that was scheduled to take place on January 9, 2008.

This meeting was important because it was to discuss the “pricing of the spectrum” as the second item on its agenda.

The meeting was fixed on January 3, 2008 but two days before it was scheduled to take place, it was postponed till January 15, 2008.

What was in offing was revealed on January 10, 2008, when through two press releases, the cutoff date for the grant of licences was preponed from October 1, 2007 to September 25, 2007 and the criterion of first-come-first-served for the grant of licences was changed to first to comply with the requirements of the letter of intent.

All this and may other details recounted in the judgment point to prima facie evidence of the acts of wrong doing as alleged by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation in its petition.

However, with the expanded scope of the CBI probe stretching back to 2001 and the role of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) coming under the scanner, the Supreme Court has directed the investigating agency to probe all these aspects, including the loss to the exchequer.

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