With his resignation as telecom minister, A Raja appeared to have saved himself from any mention in the Supreme Court today in the controversial 2G case, with petitioners seeking more time to file submissions on the report of the CAG that is to be placed in Parliament.
The NGO, which has brought the issue before the court, alleged that the telecom ministry is not providing complete details including the conversation between Raja and a corporate lobbyist relating to the scam.
The much-awaited hearing, which lasted for only 25 minutes, went off without any hard hitting remarks against the government or the CBI and there was also no reference to the name of Raja who resigned late on Sunday night.
A Bench comprising Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly heard advocate Prashant Bhushan, the counsel for the NGO, which has brought the issue of alleged scam to the court.
He opened the argument by alleging that the Department of Telecom (DoT) and Raja favoured ineligible companies while allocating 2G spectrum (air waves) in 2008, causing a loss of around Rs 1.76 lakh crore (Rs 1.76 trillion) to the exchequer as is evident from the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).
Bhushan alleged that Raja ignored advice of the sectoral regulator Trai (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) and the ministry of law and justice to consult Empowered Group of Ministers on the issue of spectrum allocation.
The NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), which was responding to the affidavit filed by the DoT, alleged that DoT avoided mentioning the taped conversations between Raja and corporate lobbyist Niira Radia relating to the issue of award of licences and spectrum, in its affidavit filed on November 11.
"The DoT in its affidavit has not addressed the issue of Raja's conversations with corporate lobbyists Niira Radia and the role played by Ms Radia in the award of licences and spectrum. These conversations were given by the Directorate of Income Tax (Investigations) to the CBI more than a year back," said the rejoinder filed by the NGO to the affidavit of DoT.
Meanwhile, Janata Party chief Subramaniam Swamy, who filed the petition seeking direction to the prime minister to grant sanction to prosecute Raja, said that since the minister has resigned, he will have to be proceeded like an MP.
"I am in a Trishanku like situation, since he (Raja) has resigned as minister and is a MP," he said, adding that he will go to the criminal court and file a case against him.
Swamy said his grievances were not addressed for a long time and now his petition has become a small matter and asked the Bench to hear his plea on priority when it comes up on Tuesday. The Bench agreed with his plea.
Bhushan said the CAG report, to be placed before Parliament, contains the report of the Director General, Audit, Post and Telegraph which also have the explanation of the government.
During the proceedings, Bhushan also opposed the stand of DoT that there was no violation of any rules by it while allotting spectrum to Swan Telecom.
DoT has submitted that stake of Anil Ambani Group firm Reliance Communications was less than 10 per cent when the spectrum was alloted to it.
CPIL, in its rejoinder filed over DoT's reply, said that Rcom holds 100 per cent control in Swan Telecom through its nominees on Tiger Trustees, the firm which had 90 per cent shares of Swan Telecom.
"DoT has stated that Reliance's equity in Swan Telecom was below 10 per cent at the time of application ie March 2, 2007 and hence Swan was eligible for licence. This is not correct. In fact, the entire equity of 100 percent of Swan was held by Reliance," CPIL said.
It further said that the although ADAG group firm holds less than 10 per cent shares, but 90 per cent shares Swan was held by Tiger Trustee, whose promoters Ashish Karekar, Dinesh Modi, and Paresh Rathod were employees of Reliance group firm.
"Ashish Karekar, Mr Dinesh Modi, and Mr Paresh Rathod are the employees of Reliance. This is also reflected from their address and their occupation. They are still the employees of Reliance. Hence Reliance Telecom under ADAG was given 2 licences: one in its own name and the other in the name of Swan," said CPIL.
Govt examining 2G spectrum allocation cases: Pilot
The government on Monday said individual cases are being examined to ascertain the eligibility of some telecom service providers which were granted 2G spectrum licences in 2008.
"DoT sought legal opinion on issues arising from the observations of audit including the effective dates of amendment of object clause in MOA, enhancement of authorised share capital of a company, change of name of a company etc."
"Individual cases are being further examined taking into account the observation of the Audit and legal opinion," Minister of State for Communications and IT Sachin Pilot said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.
Pilot said the licences were granted in 2008 as per the guidelines, but the Director General of Audit, Post and Telecommunications (DG Audit P&T) in its draft audit report stated that some of these companies failed to meet DoT's pre-condition as they were not present in the telecom business.
To another question, Pilot replied a licensee (operator) may surrender the license by giving notice of at least 60 calender days in advance.
"In that case it shall also notify all its customers of consequential withdrawal of service by sending a 30 calendar days notice to each of them," Pilot said.
The licensee shall pay all fees payable by it till the date on which the surrender of the licensee (60 days from the receipt of the notice) becomes effective, it added.