‘The question is: Who misrepresented the facts to the then PM? It was not A Raja but Pulok Chatterjee, in consultation with T K A Nair, as he had suppressed the most relevant and controversial part of the letter of A Raja from the then Prime Minister,’ says the special CBI judge in his 2G spectrum case verdict.
The trial court verdict in the ‘telecom scam’, acquitting everyone indicted, had said then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was not properly briefed by T K A Nair, and Pulok Chatterjee, two top officials in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Judge O P Saini’s observation, however, vindicates tainted telecom minister A Raja’s stand that the latter had written to Singh before a letter of intent was issued to companies which had applied for spectrum in September 2007 . The court says the PM had asked Nair and Chatterjee to examine Raja’s letter and prepare a note.
“The file was placed before the PM on Jan 7, 2008. It is not clear from the record if this note was seen by (Singh) or not. However, it is clear somebody from the Prime Minister’s Office had given a go-ahead to the department of telecommunications (DoT) for issue of new licences and, most probably, it was Pulok Chatterjee himself, as his note records that he had spoken to secretary (telecom),” Saini noted in his 1,522-page judgment.
“Thereafter only on the same day, the process of issue of Letters of Intent (LOIs) started with the recording of notes by Nitin Jain and A K Srivastava. Had the PMO hinted otherwise, DoT would not have dared to go ahead with the process of issue of LOIs, as secretary (telecom) only joined on January 1, 2008 and was quite new in his job. He (Siddhartha Behura) would not have dared to go against the PMO,” the judge observed.
Raja first informed the then PM on November 2, 2007, about the cut-off date of inviting applications for licences. He told Singh the DoT had decided to issue LOIs to those who had applied on September 25, 2007.
Singh then wrote to Raja that the licences needed to be allocated in a transparent manner. Raja wrote to Singh on December 26, 2007, that he was following the earlier policy of “first come, first served” basis. Saini says Singh then directed Nair “to examine the same urgently”.
Chatterjee again discussed the issue with Nair and recorded a long note. He marked the file to Nair, who signed it on January 7, 2008. The file was sent to Singh the same day.
Saini says the note prepared by Chatterjee and Nair only talks of availability of spectrum. “This note did not consider at all the issue of new licences, which were to be issued as per the changed criteria from date of application to date of payment, and was also the most controversial one.”
“Moreover, the note suffered from the vice of excessive length and technical jargon. It is lengthier than the letter of A Raja. The Prime Minister is a busy executive. Wherefrom would he find time to read such lengthy notes? A PM is not expected to be immersed in files. It was much easier and better for him to read and understand the letter of A Raja than this note of Pulok Chatterjee.”
Saini further decides it was Chatterjee and Nair, who misrepresented the facts to Singh. “The question is: Who misrepresented the facts to the then PM? It was not A Raja but Pulok Chatterjee, in consultation with T K A Nair, as he had suppressed the most relevant and controversial part of the letter of A Raja from the then Prime Minister.”
Image: Former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. Photograph: Thierry Roge/Reuters.