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Raja asks if probe agency decides spectrum sale or auction

An investigative agency is neither competent nor authorised to ascertain if airwaves should be auctioned or allotted, former telecom minister A. Raja told a special court here Thursday, amid disruptions due to a lawyers’ strike.

‘The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), to my knowledge, is a brand headed by Delhi Police, which can’t exercise judicial and legislative powers,’ Raja said, and added that the issue of auctioning or selling airwaves was settled before he became telecom minister.

‘Who are they to say spectrum should be auctioned? They are not the policy deciders, not the cabinet! Who are they?’ Raja queried when the accused in the second generation (2G) telecom spectrum allotment case were asked to make informal statements.

The former minister, a lawyer by profession, also went on to add that he had kept Prime Minister Manmohan Singh informed on all aspects associated with spectrum allotment and that he was not seeking to shift the blame on to someone else.

‘It was the prime minister who said ‘Mr. Raja, don’t take any decision without apprising me’. So constitutionally, it was my duty to do so. Now people are saying I am shifting my burden to the PM.’

The special CBI court, presided over by Judge O.P. Saini, had started the day’s proceedings, hearing the counsel of one of the co-accused in the case, Hari Nair of Reliance Communications, when the lawyers sought to walk-out due to a strike.

Judge Saini allowed them to but asked if the 14 co-accused wanted to make any informal statements. Eight of them did, starting with Shahid Balwa of Swan, followed by Raja, former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura and Raja’s former aide R.K. Chandolia.

In her first personal statement in the special court, Kanimozhi, DMK Rajya Sabha member and daughter of former Tamil Nadu chief minister M. Karunanidhi, wondered why she was still being kept in judicial custody when she was not a party to the case.

‘I have never been a part of the decision making process in Kalaignar TV. I was just a shareholder. I don’t know why CBI is prosecuting me,’ she said, referring to the CBI’s claim that the channel had illegally received Rs.200 crore, linked to the case.

Gautam Doshi of Reliance repeated what his lawyer Iqbal Chagla had said in the court a day earlier, regarding the company’s holding in Swan Telecom and links with its majority holder Tiger Traders, and said the quantum of equity was within permissible limits.

‘Reliance Telecom has no voting rights in Tiger Traders. Reliance Telecom, which had 9.9 percent equity in Swan, divested it much before the licences were applied,’ he said. ‘There was no cross-holding between Tiger Traders and Reliance Telecom.’

Balwa said the probe agency was basing its arguments by terming some companies in his group and outside as associates. But, he added, the agency has not spelt out what it defines as associate.

‘If they don’t have the definition of an associate, then they should inform the court about it and they should tell it that the accused be released and that they will file another chargesheet. We are in jail for around six months now.’

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