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Raja targeting PMO to save himself: Fali Nariman

By Onkar Singh
November 18, 2010 11:53 IST
Embattled former telecom minister Andimuthu Raja is trying to divert Opposition attention to the Prime Minister's Office over the 2G spectrum row to gain time and public sympathy for himself, feels Fali S Nariman, the distinguished Constitutional lawyer.

Nariman's comment followed Raja's statement that he had followed all of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's recommendations and had done what he was told by the PMO.

"He is trying to divert attention," Nariman said. "The media is creating unnecessary hype. When Raja says he was doing things at the PMO's behest it does not necessarily mean that the prime minister is involved. Dr Manmohan Singh is a person who needs to be revered than merely praised."

According to Nariman, there is not an iota of evidence against the prime minister.

"Otherwise, we will all lose faith in the system," the lawyer said, adding that the controversy could have been nipped in the bud when a petition was filed against the Department of Telecommunications in the Delhi high court as the process of tenders was to begin.

The Department of Telecom had issued the 2G licences in 2008 to several telecom operators. This act has become the Central Board of Investigation's focus, as allegedly no auctions were held, with the licences issued on a 'first come, first served' basis.

Moreover the licences were severely undervalued, as the prices for them were calculated based on rates from 2001.

Many of the buyers have since sold their stakes for a significant profit -- often to foreign operators, including Etisalat and Telenor.

"Unfortunately, the matter kept getting delayed and nobody seemed to be interested," Nariman said.

Asked if the findings of the Supreme Court, which is hearing a plea to prosecute Raja for his alleged involvement in the scam, would include the prime minister, Nariman said it was good that the apex court has asked why the PMO had delayed action against the minister.

"But I don't think that in the final order the name of the prime minister would be mentioned. By raising a query, the court is keeping everyone on his toes," he added.

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Onkar Singh in New Delhi