The leniency shown by the Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI) to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Attorney-General Goolam Vahanvati, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and the former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran, and its clear reluctance to investigate their roles in the 2G scam, on Tuesday prompted members of the Joint Parliamentary Committee(JPC) to call for the immediate arrest of Mr. Maran. They also asked for interrogation of both the AG and Mr. Chidambaram.
The CBI, under the Supreme Court’s directions, has been tasked with investigating the spectrum scam, starting from 2001. CBI Director A.P. Singh admitted to the JPC that a genuine probe, in spite of the agency filing an FIR on October 21, 2009, was launched only after the court’s December 16, 2010 directions. Following this, the CBI arrested ex-Telecom Minister A. Raja in February 2011 and filed its charge sheets in April and October.
But, blowing a hole in the investigation, CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta questioned why the CBI, in its April 2, 2011 charge sheet, said no discussion took place between Mr. Raja and Mr. Vahanvati when the AG himself, in response to an RTI application, had admitted to a meeting with Mr. Raja and Pranab Mukherjee in the first week of December. The CBI’s response was that it had no evidence of the meeting at the time of its filing the charge sheet.
Asked why the CBI believed that Mr. Vahanvati was innocent despite his having approved the January 10, 2008 press release which included an illegal advancement of the cut-off date, and why the AG had not been questioned over manipulation of the first come, first served criterion, which was also included in the same press release, the CBI insisted that it was not the AG who gave the order.
Questioned by Mr. Dasgupta about the clean chit given to Mr. Chidambaram, who was Finance Minister during the period the 2G scam occurred, the CBI said this was because his views were similar to those expressed by the then Finance Secretary, D. Subbarao, who had opposed Mr. Raja’s spectrum allocation methodology. Based on Dr. Subbarao’s statement to the CBI, the agency advised the court that there was no need to interrogate Mr Chidambaram.
Reminding the CBI that the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.PC) Act defines corruption as abuse of office, irrespective of financial gain, by a public servant to cause an unlawful gain to any individual, senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha asked why the CBI gave the Prime Minister a clean chit on grounds that he was “misled” by Mr. Raja.
Mr. Sinha highlighted the detailed letters written by Mr. Raja to the Prime Minister apprising him of his actions, which the Prime Minister acknowledged (he even advised Mr. Raja to hold a press conference to clear media misunderstandings), as well as the detailed PMO notings on spectrum pricing. He asked why the CBI believed that the Prime Minister was so naive as to quietly withdraw all his “concerns” about Mr. Raja’s spectrum pricing methodology just on a single written assurance by the latter that he was following policy. To this, the CBI maintained that it had not seen the PMO files.
The CBI’s status report on its 2G investigation, which was presented to the JPC members, also raised eyebrows. Members questioned why the CBI, following the CAG report and the Supreme Court’s directions, had arrested and jailed Mr. Raja based on suspicion — that too much before filing charge sheets — while it had refused to arrest Mr. Maran even after finding him guilty in its report. The CBI failed to give a satisfactory response to this query.
The CBI also told the JPC that it had no evidence against Anil Ambani and only arrested Reliance company officials were instrumental in the wrongdoing.
They also had no answer to questions about Ratan Tata’s alleged role. Claiming that Switzerland was refusing to cooperate, it refused to commit to any delivery on finding the money trail in foreign countries. The little progress claimed by the CBI was that its revenue loss estimate has inched to Rs. 30,000 crore, which is closer to the CAG’s estimates than the Rs. 22,000 crore stated in its October 2009 FIR.