Former Telecom Minister A Raja on Tuesday told a Delhi court that former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Cabinet members were "completely under confusion" created by "vested interests" about policy and procedure of Department of Telecommunication in allocating the 2G spectrum.
Deposing as a witness to defend himself in the ongoing trial in 2G spectrum allocation case, Raja, an accused, told the court that he had held many discussions with the then prime minister and had explained to him the policy and legal framework governing issuance of licences and allotment of spectrum.
He also said that he had told the then PM that there was a ‘cartel force’ wanting to stop legitimate efforts of the DoT to boost tele density and reduce tariff in the country by way of injecting competition.
"I further disclosed (to PM) how pressure was put on me through legal and other means to restrain myself from these efforts. The prime minister told me that he got the letter (sent by Raja in November 2007) and it was discussed at length in the PMO, where a separate joint secretary is posted to look after DoT in the PMO to apprise PM of all these issues," Raja told Special CBI Judge O P Saini.
"I submitted relevant papers in a folder to the PM. Further he told me that members of the Cabinet were also completely under confusion created by vested interests and he handed over a letter to me which was written by Kamal Nath, the then union minister, addressed to the prime minister, which raised the same issues and wanted constitution of group of ministers on these issues (relating to the policy and procedure of DoT)," he said.
Raja, whose deposition will continue tomorrow, also told the court that he had "further felt that the Prime Minister/PMO was completely misguided by the vested interests, who had taken the same stand before TDSAT for same issues."
“In Parliament also, such confusing questions were asked by MPs at the behest of vested interests. So, I took the issue seriously and replied to the Prime Minister same day (on November 2, 2007) by writing the aforesaid letter...explaining the correct legal position," he said.
During his deposition, Raja told the court that during his discussion with the then PM, he had apprised him that adequate spectrum was going to be available to accommodate applicants, who had applied for 2G licences upto September 25, 2007.
"Then the PM directed me to have discussion with Pranab Mukherjee, the then minister for external affairs, who was heading the empowered group of ministers on vacation of spectrum," he said, adding that he had met Mukherjee and had explained the policies, availability of spectrum and intention of the DoT to issue more licences to bring competition in the field, to reduce tariff and to boost tele density.
"I explained to him that non-disclosure of available spectrum itself was surreptitious act in connivance with the officers of the DoT which prevented real competition with fruitful results to the general public. I further explained that the Cellular Operators Association of India, which had vested interest over this issue, filed frivolous litigation before the TDSAT and it was effectively defended by the DoT through then SG G E Vahanvati," Raja said.
During the day's proceeding, the court also recorded the statements of J B S Rawat, Joint Director of the Lok Sabha Secretariat, and Ranjan Khanna, who was the personal secretary to then minister of communication and information technology Kapil Sibal, from December 2010 to May 15, 2014.
Rawat brought three reports of Lok Sabha debates held on November 26, 2007, February 22, 2010 and February 21, 2011 while Khanna submitted the copy of a press statement given by Sibal which was downloaded by DoT from the website of Press Information Bureau.