A trial court here Saturday dismissed Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy’s plea to make Home Minister P. Chidambaram a co-accused in the 2G case, saving the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government further embarrassment in the spectrum saga.
There is “no material on record” to suggest that Chidambaram was acting with corrupt motives, Special CBI Judge O.P. Saini said delivering a keenly awaited verdict for which media persons had thronged the Patiala House court complex.
He posted the matter for further hearing March 17.
“The prayer of Swamy seeking summoning of Chidambaram is dismissed,” said Saini. Swamy, his wife and his counsel were present in the courtroom when the judge was working on his order. Later, the courtroom was opened for all.
In his 63-page judgment, Saini said: “A decision taken by a public servant does not become criminal for the simple reason that it has caused loss to the public exchequer or resulted in pecuniary advantage to others. Merely attending meetings and taking decisions therein is not a criminal act.”
“There is no material on record to suggest that Chidambaram was acting with such corrupt or illegal motives or was in abuse of his official position, while consenting to the two decisions. There is no evidence that he obtained any pecuniary advantage without any public interest,” the judge observed.
The never-say-die Swamy said he was surprised but not disappointed and would appeal against the trial court’s ruling.
“I am surprised…but not disappointed because this is part of the game. I will appeal in the high court and if need be I will go to the Supreme Court,” said Swamy.
Since morning, Chidambaram was cloistered at his residence with his aides.
The 2G saga relates to alleged irregularities in the allocation of scarce second generation spectrum to telecom companies during the tenure of former communications minister A. Raja, which is said to have caused huge losses to the exchequer. Chidambaram was the finance minister at that time. Raja has been in jail for a year in the 2G case.
Saturday’s verdict thus brought huge relief for Chidambaram.
Both the government and the Congress party, which leads the UPA-II, were elated and said the charges were “politically motivated”.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in Kolkata: “Of course, it is a good judgment. It is a relief because unnecessarily somebody was pursecuted.”
Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal said: “The truth can never be hidden. The fact is Chidambram, who is a valued colleague, we knew all along that he was not responsible in any way either directly or indirectly and that these allegations were being made for political motives.”
Taking a dig at Swamy, Sibal said: “He can appeal in the high court, in the Supreme Court and then in the end, he can appeal to god.”
Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni also targeted him. “Swamy lives by the media and has done this to keep himself alive,” she said.
But the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which had boycotted Chidambaram in parliament for his alleged role in the 2G case, did not lose hope.
“This is the order of the very first court. There are other hierarchy of courts also. Swamy has clearly said he will approach the high court and Supreme Court,” BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
“As far as the political angle is concerned, you cannot lose sight of the fact that the apex court of the country has quashed as many as 122 licences in the country because these were found to be completely afflicted by corruption, capricious, arbitrary and manipulation of policy,” he added.
Prasad was referring to the Supreme Court’s Thursday judgment that quashed all 122 licences for mobile phone services issued in 2008 and left it to a trial court to decide on a possible probe into the role of Chidambaram, then the finance minister.
The apex court verdict had come as a huge blow to the UPA government already facing the heat from the opposition on various charges of corruption.
Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitely stressed the party would continue its boycott against Chidambaram in parliament.
Swamy, while deposing in the case, had contended that Raja committed irregularities in connivance with Chidambaram in allotting the licences.
Judge Saini had reserved his order for Saturday after the last hearing Jan 21 when Swamy concluded his final arguments.