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Rediff.com  » Business » FinMin trying to scuttle probe into 2G scam case?

FinMin trying to scuttle probe into 2G scam case?

Last updated on: August 2, 2011 19:46 IST

FinMin trying to scuttle probe into 2G scam case?

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Sheela Bhatt


Is the Union Finance Ministry, led by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, trying to scuttle the investigation into the 2G spectrum scam case?

The Centre for Public Interest Litigation, the petitioner in the 2G scam case, has raised this doubt.

CPIL has asked the Supreme Court to look into the alleged intimidation of the officers dealing with the 2G case.

In reference to the petition filed earlier in the Supreme Court by the officer of Enforcement Directorate against Sahara Group chief Subrata Roy, CPIL has stated: 'An attempt is being made at the highest level of the Government of India, especially at the level of the Ministry of Finance, to harass and intimidate both the officers of ED investigating the 2G case and to scuttle the 2G investigations. This is especially serious considering ED has slapped a penalty notice of over Rs 7,000 crore (Rs 70 billion) on Etisalat DB (Swan) for violating FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act).'

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Image: The Indian Parliament.
Photographs: Courtesy rajyasabha.nic.in
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The acquisition of Swan Telecom by Etisalat was cleared by the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as admitted by Chidambaram himself.

According to CPIL's lawyer, Prashant Bhushan, the petition is necessary because there is an attempt to scuttle the investigations into the 2G case.

As the role of the powers-that-be in the government comes under the scanner, pressure is being mounted on the two ED officers investigating the 2G case from the highest level, particularly the finance ministry, alleged Bhushan.

Bhushan said, "We have asked the court to call for the complaints that have been referred by the finance ministry to the ED."

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Image: The Supreme Court of India.
Photographs: Reuters
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Subodh Jain, referred to in the application, was a news reporter with Sahara, against whom contempt notice was issued and recently he has been dismissed from service. Jain had made 50 complaints against both ED officers -- Rajeshwar Singh and Sharad Chowdhury -- who are investigating the 2G case.

The 2G case and the new application are listed for hearing on Thursday, August 4.

The petition to the Apex Court said, 'From the contempt notice dated 06.05.2011, it is clear that the Sahara Group tried to intimidate the investigating officers in the 2G case. Six months before the contempt notice was issued, the Sahara Group had tried to allure the investigating officers of ED, but had not succeeded in this endeavour. Having failed in their attempt to allure the officers, the Sahara Group has now attempted to embarrass and intimidate the investigating officers.'

The ED has been investigating the alleged involvement of the Sahara Group in the 2G scam case and also certain other cases, all of which require a serious probe as is detailed in the contempt petition.

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Photographs: Reuters
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The petitioner also said, 'Under these circumstances, Upendra Rai, editor & news director of Sahara India Media (Respondent No. 2), met ED assistant director Sharad Chowdhury offering to pay Rs 2 crore (Rs 20 million) as a bribe seeking favours from the ED regarding matters involving Niira Radia (corporate lobbyist for Tatas), AICTE and the Sahara Group. Chowdhury recorded what transpired in the said meeting and made a complaint to his department.'

Chowdhury wrote to his senior, and his department wrote to the Central Bureau of Investigation in November 2010 to get the above incident investigated. The ED had issued a summons in February 2011 for Subrata Roy, Sahara Group chief (Respondent No. 1) asking him to personally appear on 17.02.2011.

Instead of appearing, Roy asked for an adjournment for four weeks. A fresh summons was issued on 30.03.2011, again requiring his personal appearance on 08.04.2011.

Roy again failed to appear on that date. The petitioner CPIL says, '. . . which is proof of his non-cooperation in an investigation which is being monitored by this hon'ble court.'

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Image: Sahara Group chief Subrata Roy.

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In the process, the petitioner said, 'Sahara Group through one of their journalists, Subodh Jain (Respondent No. 3), on 05.05.2011 sent a set of 25 questions to Rajeshwar Singh threatening to do a story against Singh.'

The issue was brought before the Supreme Court bench hearing the 2G case which had passed strict strictures against 'the deliberate attempt to interfere in the investigations being carried out by the ED in the 2G case, and issued contempt notice to the respondents'.

The counsel for the Sahara Group had to give an assurance that no news story would be carried against the investigating officers in the 2G case.

CPIL's grouse is that 'after failing to intimidate the ED officers, and after the contempt notice was issued and the matter was pending in this hon'ble court, Subodh Jain (Respondent No. 3) did not give up his devious designs and lodged as many as 50 complaints with the government against Rajeshwar Singh and Sharad Chowdhury, i.e. the 2 officers of ED investigating the 2G scam case.'

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The main thrust of petition is that action by Sahara 'amounts to wilful interference in the investigations, and is an attempt to intimidate ED investigating officers'.

The petition says, 'There is, however, an even more serious aspect of this matter. On May 31, 2011, the then Law Minister Veerappa Moily forwarded the complaint of Respondent No. 3 against ED officer Rajeshwar Singh to the finance minister and ministry of finance (which is the parent department of ED).'

The very next day, the Prime Minister's Office forwarded a complaint from the Respondent No. 3 against ED officer Chowdhury to the secretary, ministry of finance.

The ministry of finance wrote to the director, ED, enclosing copy of the complaints of Respondent No. 3 against both ED officers -- Rajeshwar Singh and Sharad Chowdhury.

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The said letter, dated 12.07.2011, states: 'This is one of the more than 50 such complaint letters received from Subodh Jain forwarded from offices of the Vice President, the prime minister, the finance minister, the defence minister, the secretaries of ministers, et cetera. All these complaints would weigh more than 40 kg. The vigilance division of this department has transferred 25 such representations for taking action in the matter.'

'In this regard, it may be noted that the Enforcement Directorate had earlier provided reasons for such complaints. However, documents enclosed with the allegations are substantial. Therefore, the competent authority in this department has decided to get comments of the ED on the substantial allegations,' the letter reads.

CPIL has requested the Supreme Court to 'call for all the files and complaints on the basis of which the ministry of finance asked for the comments of Enforcement Directorate.'

He said that the court should 'ensure a free and impartial investigation into the 2G scam case'.


Photographs: Reuters
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