Sunday, 24 December 2017

Court Verdict in 2G Scam Exposes the Putrefaction of Capitalism

- Rajesh Tyagi/ 25.12.2017

A special CBI court on Thursday acquitted all 18 accused including the prime accused, A Raja and K Kanimozhi in 2G spectrum allocation case.

The scam had come to light almost seven years ago during UPA regime led by Congress under Manmohan Singh, when the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its annual report accused the then Telecom Minister A Raja to have caused the state exchequer a loss of Rs 1,76,3790 Million by allocating 2G spectrum licenses at throwaway prices.

Putting the burden of acquittals upon the shoulders of CBI, the Court held that the prosecution has failed to prove the charges. The verdict, however, has departed from the position taken by the Supreme Court in its Judgement earlier, that the licenses issued during 2G spectrum allocation were illegal.

“The charge sheet of the instant case is based mainly on misreading, selective reading, non-reading and out of context reading of the official record”, Special CBI Judge OP Saini observed in the Judgement. “The charge sheet is based on some oral statements made by the witnesses during investigation, which the witnesses have not owned up in the witness box. I could not understand what CBI wanted to prove”, added the Special Judge.

Former Telecom Minister A Raja and DMK MP Kanimozhi, had reached the Patiala House Courts in anticipation of a favourable judgement, ahead of the pronouncement of verdict in 2G scam cases.

Even after the formal pronouncement, refusing to comment on the judgement, a jubilant A. Raja, the then Telecom Minister and prime accused in the Scam, said, “Like a good lawyer, I will comment only after reading the full verdict. I am going to have elaborative press conference at 5 pm at my residence today”.

Welcoming the Court decision, another co-accused in the scam and daughter of K. Karunanidhi, the DMK leader, K. Kanimozhi said: “We are all very happy that the justice has prevailed. It was a harrowing experience to be accused of something I have not done and being accused of corruption which I was not a part of. The whole party has suffered due to this. We feel finally a big weight has been lifted off.The allegation was that I was Director of Kalaignar TV. I was a Director for 20 days before the launch of the channel. I wasn't present in any board meetings. CBI knew all this. I had submitted my resignation in the ROC. There's more to it than meets the eye”. “I would love to thank everyone who stood by me”, said an elated Kanimozhi, outside the Court.

Defending the judgement, Former Attorney General, Mukul Rohtagi, shamelessly stated: "Prosecution's main argument was on clause 8, it is a civil issue. It was never an issue of criminality, this is what court also held".

Former Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, during whose regime the scam had taken place, supported the Judgement, saying, “The 2G scam was a massive propaganda against the UPA without any proof. We respect the court's judgement. I dont want to boast. I am glad that the court has announced unambiguously that the massive propaganda launched against the UPA was without any foundation. The judgement speaks for itself".

Shashi Tharoor, vocal leader of Congress, already under scanner in mysterious death of his wife Sunanda Pushkar, said, “Clearly the Court found that innocent people have been wronged. Justice has worked as it is supposed to work in our country".

Another Congress leader Manish Tewari in a tweet asked the former CAG, Vinod Rai, whose report was instrumental in triggering the exposure of the scam, to apologise to the nation. "Mr Vinod Rai, Former CAG must apologise to the nation for throwing presumptive sensational Corrosive numbers into public discourse. He was author of imbecile 1.76 thousand crore loss theory that I had destroyed during my cross examination of Rai in JPC. Court has affirmed JPC Report."

After the acquittals, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram said, "One thing is clear that the allegations of a major scam involving highest levels of government was not true or correct".

Senior Congress member Kapil Sibal said that the 2G scam verdict was a moral and legal victory for the UPA government. He says that they will ask those who raised allegations to apologise and that the PM too should stop raising this matter now.

In order to cool down the public tampers that rose high in the aftermath of the unexpected acquittals, the ruling BJP leaders forthwith set out for a damage control exercise.

“This is very bad judgement. On appeal, this verdict will be set aside. This isn't final verdict. Happiness for Congress is short-lived", claimed Subramanian Swamy, leader of the ruling BJP. “Former Attorney General is supporting the judgement. It wasn't appropriate to appoint Mukul Rohatgi as Advocate General” Swamy added.

Later in a Tweet, Swamy said, “The government must prove its bonafides by filing an immediate appeal in the High Court”.

Initiating the political blame game, Finance Minister Arun Jaitely, a lawyer by profession, said, “Today, there has been a judgement of acquittal against the accused in the 2G spectrum case. The Congress leaders are treating this as some kind of a badge of honour and a certification that 2G policy was an honest policy”.

“The policy was arbitrary and designed to promote corruption. We have to look at amounts collected by subsequent auctions. The (UPA) policy was designed to promote corruption. It was implemented in an unfair manner, causing loss of revenue to the government. Auctioning was getting much higher price. I am sure investigating agencies and prosecuting agencies will look into it and decide what to do further in the matter. The Congress should not consider this as some kind of certificate of clean chit” Jaitely added further.

Anna Hazare, a BJP stooge who led the agitation on 2G issue against UPA Government to facilitate the BJP’s ride to power in 2014, said: “If the Government has concrete evidence, then they should take the matter to a higher court”.

The Scam had got unfolded after the CAG audit had estimated the loss at Rs. 1.76 lakh crore.

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 CAG marked that the licenses were given to ineligible companies and those who had no experience in the field of telecom such as Unitech and Swan Telecom.

To wash off his hands from the Scam in advance, the then PM Manmohan Singh had written to the Telecom Minister A Raja in Nov 2007, asking for transparency in 2G allotment and to revise the licence fee. Raja did not accept the view and Manmohan Singh kept quite. Finance Ministry also wrote to Department of Telecom raising procedural concerns. This was also ignored.

Later, in a PIL alleging irregularities in awarding 2G spectrum & licenses, the Supreme Court had cancelled 122 licences calling them 'unconstitutional and arbitrary' directing a re-bid in February, 2012. Supreme Court also 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 for being part of the apparent Scam. The Supreme Court specifically indicted the then Telecom Minister A.Raja, observing that, “….he favoured some companies at the cost of the public exchequer and virtually gifted away important national assets".

Then Union Minister Kapil Sibal had rejected the CAG's findings raising a ‘zero loss theory’. However, his ‘zero loss theory’ was demolished on August 3, 2012 when acting upon the directions of the Supreme Court, the Government of India was forced to revise the base price for 5 MHz 2G spectrum auction from earlier Rs 14,000 crore to around Rs 2,800 crore per MHz. This new price stood closer 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, investigating the Scam, Raja admitted that he met P. Chidambaram and Prime Minister Singh several times from November 2007 to July 2008 to inform them of all 2G-related decisions and they agreed with him.

The CBI filed 8000 page charge sheet cutting down the loss to Rs. 30,985 crore only. The CBI charge sheet however disclosed that the bribes were paid to favour the 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 Scam was probed by two investigating agencies separately: Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate and there were two separate cases in the scam before CBI Special Court: One by Central Bureau of Investigation involving the offences under the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act and the other by the Enforcement Directorate, involving offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. The judgment is based on 8000-page charge sheet filed by the CBI.

Among the key accused in the chargesheet are: the then Telecom Minister A Raja, Rajya Sabha MP and DMK leader M Kanimozhi and then Telecom Secretary, Siddharth Behura.

77 of 154 witnesses have deposed on behalf of the prosecution since the inception of Trial in Nov 2013.

The Scam had rocked the frontiers even beyond the country to make its way through the TIME magazine's 'Top 10 Abuses of Power' list.

Even before acquitting all in the Scam, the CBI Court had already discharged the accused in 2002 additional telecom spectrum allocation scam including the then Telecom Secretary Shyamal Ghosh, Bharti Cellular, Hutchison Max Telecom (Vodafone India Ltd) as well as Sterling Cellular Ltd (bought by Vodafone). In 2017, Dayanidhi Maran, former Telecom Minister, and his brother Kalanidhi Maran from the allegation that they had forced Aircel's Sivasankaran to sell his stake to Maxis Communications owned by of Ananda Krishnan.

Though CBI Judge, O.P.Saini has shifted the blame for acquittals upon the shoulders of the CBI, the fact goes that the Judgement itself has thousand lacunae to be answered. The Judgement leaves more questions to be answered than it answers itself.

There is no doubt that the CBI had watered down the offences and diluted the indictment of the elite and all powerful accused, but the role of the CBI Court is also in the shadows. The fact goes that the entire political establishment had worked to save the culprits and each and every organ of it has played its part in the game.

There was abundant evidence on record in the case that implicated the accused and was sufficient to convict them all.

In 2007-2008, spectrum was given by an auction, but on basis of a price discovery made in 2001. So, the spectrum in 2008 was allocated on 2001 prices. Even within the policy implementation, there was apparent arbitrariness. The cut-off date was advanced. ‘First Come First Serve’ policy was introduced to help selected few. The favourite chosen few were informed in advance about the change of policy who got even the bank drafts prepared on the previous date before the spectrum allocation.

While cancelling all allocation of the 2G licences in February 2012, as arbitrary and unfair, the Supreme Court had mentioned all these illegalities in its Judgement.

Despite abundant evidence of the crime on record and despite the BJP being in power, acquittals of the prime accused in the case belonging to the opposition parties like Congress and DMK, have come as a surprise to many.

There is nothing to be surprised though as all the leaders and parties of the ruling bourgeoisie are united in loot of public exchequer and resources.

It is apparent that the acquittals have been secured with active collusion between the ruling and opposition parties.

People are being robbed by handful elite and the rich, the corporate and political bosses acting hand in gloves with each other. Capitalism is just another name of plunder of public money. For more than a century, capitalism could not grow the economic forces that continue to stagnate and decline each passing day. It lives by loot and plunder of the masses misusing all conquests of science and technology to this degraded mission.

The task of the working class is to overthrow capitalism to put an end to all expropriation of human and natural resources by the handful of capitalist elite.

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