Prime Minister Manmohan Singh dealt suitably with every letter to him for sanction to prosecute then communications minister A. Raja on the alleged second generation (2G) spectrum scam, the Supreme Court was informed Saturday in an affidavit, and sought to set the record straight on a political storm that threatened to envelop his office.
It was also a day when Manmohan Singh not only assured the nation that no one found guilty of any wrong-doing in allocation of 2G spectrum would be spared but also said he was not afraid of a discussion, while appealing to political parties to allow parliament to function.
“We are ready to discuss all issues in parliament. We are not afraid of discussion,” the prime minister said at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit here in what were his first public comments on the 2G spectrum scam.
“As far as allocation of 2G spectrum is concerned, parliament is in session. I would not like, therefore, to make any detailed statement,” the prime minister said during a brief question-answer session after his 20-minute speech.
“I can state that various aspects of this are being looked into by the respective investigating agencies in their domain of interest,” he said in the session, moderated by his former media advisor Sanjaya Baru.
In the Supreme Court, the 10-page affidavit filed by the Prime Minister’s Office gives details of the steps taken on every communication from Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy, who had sought permission to prosecute Raja under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
A director in the PMO filed the affidavit in compliance of the apex court’s directive Thursday that sought an official explanation on Swamy’s complaint that there was a long silence over his letters on the part of the Prime Minister’s Office.
An apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice A.K. Ganguly Thursday asked for a detailed affidavit after Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium told the court that each of those letters had been replied to, along with the steps taken.
This response on steps taken by the prime minister to examine allegations of a scam in the award of 2G spectrum will now be used by the government when the matter comes up for hearing in the Supreme Court Tuesday, official sources said.
The affidavit will also be used to say that Swamy held back from the court some vital information he had in his possession and did not reveal everything to the court, the sources noted.
The Prime Minister’s Office had sought the opinion of the law ministry in May 2009 on Swamy’s application for sanction to prosecute Raja under the Prevention of Corruption Act, the affidavit says.
The law ministry replied in February 2010 that since the probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was on, the prime minister need not give any sanction. The affidavit, accordingly, says there was no delay on the prime minister’s part.
Swamy had denied having received any communication from the Prime Minister’s Office, except for the one he got in March 2010. He said on Nov 20, 2008, he had written to the prime minister seeking permission to launch proceedings against Raja.
The 2G spectrum saga crippled parliament for the whole of this week as the opposition refused to give up its demand for a parliamentary probe into the scandal that has even threatened to knock on the Prime Minister’s Office.
The opposition was also not satisfied with the resignation of Raja, a DMK leader, as communications and IT minister late Sunday – during whose tenure 2G spectrum, or airwaves for mobile phone services, were awarded in 2008, mainly to new players.
The position of opposition parties was only strengthened after India’s official auditor indicted Raja and said his policies had caused a loss of Rs.58,000 crore ($12.8 billion) to Rs.1.76 lakh crore ($40 billion) to the exchequer.
The government has so far stonewalled the opposition’s demand, saying the Public Accounts Committee of parliament chaired by BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi functions like a permanent joint parliamentary committee and is capable of probing any matter.