The Supreme Court on Thursday asked why no step was taken to prevent the 2G scam even though it was clear from the CBI chargesheet that the head of the government and the finance minister were aware, as far back as November 2007, of allegations about irregularities in allocation of spectrum, and had favoured the auction route.
A bench of Justices G S Singhvi and H L Dattu said it had resisted asking this question all along. “The chargesheet itself contains the date November 2, 2007. The head of the government had written saying spectrum was a scarce commodity and should be auctioned. But to use a strong expression, the then telecom minister did not agree. It is not that the government was not aware of these things,” the bench said. The telecom minister at the time was DMK’s A Raja, who is now in jail.
“You could have avoided the entire exercise by just taking one decision. It was felt by the government. The spectrum allocations were done much later than the letters of intent (LoIs) issued on January 10, 2008,” the judges said.
“What prevented the government from taking this one decision? From September and October 2007, complaints started flowing about alleged irregularities in spectrum allocation. The CVC also wrote about it. It (the 2G scam) could have been put to an end and saved a lot of time of various institutions concerned,” the bench said.
Additional solicitor general Harin Raval said what the other authorities could have done or not did not lessen the gravity of the crime of the accused who were responsible for the decisions leading to allocation of LoIs.
The bench said, “But the gravity of the crime would have been substantially reduced if not completely prevented.”
In the course of monitoring the CBI probe and hearing a petition filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, the apex court on December 1 last year had taken a serious view of former telecom minister A Raja brushing aside Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s concerns expressed in his November 2, 2007, letter about 2G spectrum allocations.
The PM had raised several key technical issues and reservations on the process of allocations. The PM had said, “I would request you (Raja) to give urgent consideration to the issues being raised with a view to ensuring fairness and transparency and let me know the position before you take any further action in this regard.”
The PM had also warned against the telecom ministry’s ‘no cap on licences’ policy in the backdrop of the large number of applications at a time when the availability of spectrum was inadequate.
Responding on November 2 itself, Raja had told the PM, “I would like to inform you that there was, and is, no single deviation or departure in the rules and procedures contemplated, in all decisions taken by my ministry and as such full transparency is being maintained by my ministry.”
During that hearing, the bench of Justices Singhvi and A K Ganguly had said, “Overruling or bypassing the PM’s concerns was not in good taste. That is what the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has pointed out in its report which is replete with such remarks. It certainly disturbed the CAG.”