2G ghosts likely to haunt Chidambaram in 2012
With important judgments in the 2G spectrum scam case expected this year, neither the government nor Home Minister P Chidambaram can rest easy.
Even though the new year has begun, old worries are likely to haunt the United Progressive Alliance government, particularly Home Minister P Chidambaram.
At a press conference on December 30, Chidambaram, in reply to a question posed by a Rediff.com correspondent, underplayed the worries he confronts due to the pending court cases.
In New Delhi, all eyes will be on the Supreme Court's two-member bench consisting of Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguli, and on the Central Bureau of Investigation special court.
Justices Singhvi and Ganguli will deliver important judgments in the 2G scam case. The judges have reserved the judgments, but court tradition suggests these judgments have to be delivered before Justice Ganguly retires from the Supreme Court on February 2. If that does not happen, a new bench will hear the cas afresh.
The case related to Chidambaram has been filed by Janata Party President Dr Subramanian Swamy who wants the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe the former politician's role as finance minister in the 2G scam case.
Dr Swamy wants the CBI to 'interrogate' Chidambaram, before arriving at any conclusion and giving him a 'clean chit.'
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Image: P Chidambaram: Under siege, for now
Swamy alleges that the CBI didn't probe Chidambaram's role in the 2G scam
According to J Gopikrishnan, the award-winning correspondent at The Pioneer newspaper, who scooped and investigated the 2G scam, "Swamy's allegation was that the CBI did not probe Chidambaram's role while they probed and questioned (the National Democratic Alliance's finance minister ) Jaswant Singh."
"The CBI said although there were lapses by the finance ministry," Gopikrishnan added, "there was no criminal misconduct by anyone from the ministry."
Dr Swamy argued that if then finance secretary and current Reserve Bank of India governor D Subbarao could be made a prime witness in the chargesheet against jailed telecom minister Andimuthu Raja, how could the CBI arrive at that conclusion without even questioning Chidambaram?
CBI officers mostly belong to the Indian Police Service which is managed and controlled by the ministry of home affairs, currently led by Chidambaram, Dr Swamy added.
The implication of Dr Swamy's plea is that Chidambaram may not be properly investigated by junior officers at his ministry.
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Image: Dr Subramanian Swamy told Rediff.com's A Ganesh Nadar he had nothing personal against Chidambaram
Chidambaram will quit if the CBI questions him
According to sources in the Congress party, Chidambaram made it clear to the party high command last month that if the CBI is directed by any court to question him, he will resign from the Union Cabinet.
What is worrying for the home ministry is the controversial office memorandum issued by the finance ministry -- and 'seen' by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee -- which 'indicted' Chidambaram, made public on September 21, 2011.
During a hearing in the special CBI court, Dr Swamy submitted before the court minutes of a meeting between Chidambram and Raja on spectrum pricing.
Just before the Diwali vacation in October, the judgment on Swamy's plea to 'question' Chidambaram in the 2G scam case was reserved by the judges.
Dr Swamy had petitioned the court that Chidambaram should be made a co-accused along with Raja and be tried under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The issue has since been shifted to a lower court. Dr Swamy moved the lower court with this plea. Judge O P Saini of the special CBI court has asked Dr Swamy to produce certified copies on Saturday, January 7.
Explains J Gopikrishnan, "These documents are, firstly, the controversial finance ministry Office Memorandum indicting Chidambaram; secondly, hushed up minutes of meetings between Raja and Chidambaram; thirdly, directions of then finance secretary D Subbarao directing the Department of Telecommunications to cancel the spectrum allocation to Tata and Reliance at seven-year-old prices in October 2008; and lastly, objections of finance ministry officials to DoT's design in spectrum allocation."
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Image: P Chidambaram and Pranab Mukherjee
Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
Swamy spares PM, blames the PMO for delay in sanction to prosecute
At the last hearing Judge Saini had said that if the certified copies are made available, there would be no need to summon witnesses as Dr Swamy had demanded.
Some weeks after hearing Dr Swamy's plea against Chidambaram, the central government filed a two-page application before Judge Saini to restrain the former from making public speeches about the matter.
The application cited Dr Swamy's speech against Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Chidambaram in Bengaluru.
Dr Swamy has made all kinds of unsubstantiated allegations, even dragging Sonia Gandhi's sister into the picture.
The court is yet to respond to the government's application.
Another judgment, which is eagerly awaited, is related to Dr Swamy's case against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the 'delayed' sanction to prosecute Raja.
The case had created a stir when the Supreme Court expressed its displeasure over the prime minister's delayed response to Dr Swamy's application to the Prime Minister's Office for sanction to prosecute Raja.
Dr Swamy, who has been consistently supportive of Dr Singhm -- in public and in private -- filed an affidavit in the prime minister's favour and shifted the blame onto the law ministry and the PMO.
The court is likely to set guidelines for granting sanction for prosecution in such cases. If and when the guidelines come, it will be a big step forward in fighting corruption in the higher echelons of the administration.
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Image: Dr Swamy has been consistently supportive of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh
Judgment on cancellation of 2G licences is pending
Another judgment awaited from Justice Singhvi and Justice Ganguli's bench relates to the case filed by Dr Swamy and Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, a core committee member of Team Anna, for cancellation of all the 122 licences then telecom minister A Raja allotted on January 10, 2008, which had been declared illegal by the Comptroller and Auditor General.
Gopikrishnan, who covers the Supreme Court regularly for his newspaper, says, "Swamy and Bhushan demanded conducting an auction to retrieve the money lost to the exchequer. Swamy went ahead with one more demand, for an auction monitored by the Supreme Court, as in the case of the court monitored auction in the petrol pump allotment of Satish Sharma. The judgment is reserved since March 2011."
Bhushan's original plea was about creating a Special Investigation Team to investigate the 2G scam.
Bhushan thinks the CBI is completely under the government's control, and has filed affidavits and made submissions before the court, alleging the roles allegedly played by Anil Ambani (chairman, Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group), Venugopal Dhoot (chairman, Videocon Industries), Ratan Tata (chairman, Tata Group), and Goolam Vahanvati, (India's attorney general) in the 2G scam.
This judgment has also been reserved since October 2011.
Image: The Supreme Court of India