Thursday, March 8, 2012

Battles won, but the WAR is not over

At last fraud 122 telecom licenses granted by former tainted Telecom A.Raja is cancelled by Supreme Court. The Congress and UPA Government have not yet learned lessons. That is why they filed review petition without any remorse. The motive of the review petition simply exposes that A.Raja is not the lone beneficiary of the 2G Scandal. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have not yet learned lessons from UP poll results.

Congress party even failed to make advantage from Punjab and Uttarakhand, where Akali Dal and BJP were facing severe anti-incumbency, allegations of corruption and headaches from dissidents. Such was the Tsunami waves lashed nationwide by the agitations of Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev against the corruption in Central Government after CAG and Supreme Court took stern steps on 2G Scandal in the last months of 2010.

But the arrogant Congress leadership thought they can manage pubic mandate by fooling Muslim voters. The things became worse, when the Government and party leadership run by corporate advocates turned ministers.

Ideally advocates should advice the clients on right things. Unfortunately they tried to appease the clients by tendering illegal advices and try to become the protectors of crime. Now in the legal world, for minting money none enlightens the client. The 2G cases are open and shut ones. But for minting money the advocates engaged by accused give wrong advices. Similar is the case of corporate advocates turned ministers in the central government. Mom and Son likes this kind of characters and electoral drubbings continues to happen and will happen in future also.

Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi still keeping mum on 2G Spectrum Scandal. So naturally people will have tendency to believe the non-countered allegations. One thing sure this humongous scandal is not Raja’s lone operation. They should explain or counter. But the review petitions against cancellation of 122 licenses strengthen the allegations against them. If this is the case one day the 2G ghost would reach their door step.

Some corporate cheer leaders and fraud legal eagles consoles, if review petition fails, Government would go for Presidential intervention like in the case of presidential pardon to Nixon in Watergate scandal by his successor Gerald Ford in 1974. Hearing this dirty decision reporter Bob Woodward was awakened by his colleague Carl Bernstein over phone: “…the son of a bitch pardoned the son of a bitch.”

Any way Indian laws are different from US and people have empowered a lot. None of the people in power dare to do such things now, especially after the gory images on the end of Libyan dictator Gaddafi.

Home Minister P.Chidambaram too keeps mum and never comes out open to defend. During his tenure as Finance Minister 2G Scam happened. As a custodian of public exchequer he should have intervened to stop the scam. Those days he was giving rejoinders to each and every news item on other subjects. But in spectrum allocation he kept quiet. Is it just due to compulsions of coalition politics syndrome as excused by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh?

The fact was Chidambaram overruled the Finance Ministry officials who objected Raja’s designs. Otherwise the2009 Lok Sabha election result of Sivaganga constituency would have been different.

One good thing in the Special CBI Court Judge OP Saini’s order is - it says Chidambaram consented with Raja in spectrum allocation at seven year old damn cheap prices and share offloading of tainted companies to Multi Nationals at whopping rates. It is not the job of Dr.Swamy to find the money trail or conspiracy angle on Chidambaram. It is the job of investigators. But in India, the investigators should be empowered by courts to act boldly.

Unfortunately, even during Supreme Court monitored probe, DMK's Ministers like SS Palanimanickam, Minister of State for Finance tries to do dirty tricks. My information is he is directing Income Tax officials to issue notices to relatives of key witnesses in the 2G trial in order to arm-twist the witnesses for changing their deposition against his party colleagues Raja and Kanimozhi. For the past eight years this key portfolio (read money minting), which controls Income Tax, Customs and Excise is under DMK.

Any way Subramanian Swamy and Prashant Bhushan have taken the matter to Supreme Court. I wish them all success and expect more exposes. I wish all success to anti-corruption crusaders. My heart is with them - Only with real crusaders, not with Ram Jethmalani kind of characters who talks against corruption and at last appears in court for corrupt people. I really doubt his so called fight against black money.

Raja is spending his second summer in Tihar jail. Hope more people to come in future. Obviously fraud advocates will be the ultimate beneficiaries of each scam. India’s Advocates Act, need to be thoroughly amended to fix these frauds. The corporate cheerleaders try to ignore the merits of Justice GS Singhvi and Justice AK Ganguly on cancelling the tainted licenses which open the doors for auction to fill our cash strapped public exchequer. More over the order automatically confiscated around Rs.14,000 crores, the amount dubiously remitted by these fraud licenses. Unfortunately some people in media want to highlight the agony of the corporate due to this boldest order. None is learning lessons even after the leakage of Nira Radia tapes.

Kapil Sibal’s Zero Loss theory started making Zero Gains for Congress in elections. Salman Khurshid’s crocodile tears for Muslims kicked his wife to fifth position in the assembly elections. Muslims in UP wanted a Musalman leader, but Congress leadership gave them Salman. More is waiting for him for manipulating and giving clean chits to Reliance-Swan and Essar-Loop deals, just before CBI filing chargesheets on these companies. Everybody’s number will come one by one.

Any way Battles won, but the WAR against corruption is still ON.

The Pioneer’s 2G scam whistleblower bags Goenka Award

The Pioneer News Service
New Delhi January 17, 2012

The Pioneer’s special correspondent J Gopikrishnan won yet another laurel when he received the Ramnath Goenka Journalist of the Year Award in print category here on Monday. CNBC managing editor Udayan Mukherjee was adjudged best journalist of the year in broadcast category . Both of these prestigious awards were for the year 2009.
The two awards, introduced by The Indian Express Group in 2006, carried a cash prize of Rs 2.5 lakh each. The awards were bestowed by Vice-President Hamid Ansari. The Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta presided over the well-attended function at Taj Hotel here. Thirty nine other winners in 17 other categories received a prize of Rs.One lakh each.

Popular as Gopi among his colleagues, Gopikrishnan had also won the last year’s CNN-IBN special achievement award and several other felicitations for his remarkable series of stories on the 2G spectrum scam, which shook the UPA Government and led to the arrest of several political biggies and bureaucrats. Dedicating his award to The Pioneer, his colleagues, and Editor-in-Chief Chandan Mitra, Gopi said, “I wanted to name several other people who helped in my pursuit, but since the trial is on, I could not reveal their identities.”

Congratulating Gopi, Chandan Mitra said he rarely met a journalist who achieved so much and yet remained so humble. “He has put on no airs despite the accolades he has received and the many awards he has won. He remains committed to his profession, and profession alone,” Mitra said, adding, “The Pioneer is proud to have such a journalist in our team.”

Gopi first brought the nation’s attention to the massive irregularities in the award of spectrum in early 2008 when a few had heard of the well-crafted conspiracy to plunder the nation’s resources and shortchange the exchequer to tune of Rs 1.76 lakh crore by an unholy nexus of politicians, bureaucrats and corporates. Unmindful of the fact that a few newspapers or TV channels cared to follow up his stories, Gopi persisted with his hard work. While he focuses on specifics, he always came out with additional materials to spice up his stories.

In a scam of this magnitude many of the juicy side stories that he shared in the news room could not be published for want of evidence, but they showed his remarkable grasp of the subject and the vast network of his contacts. From personal life of the accused persons to their professional indiscretions, Gopi knew it all. His approach was so professional and meticulous that a few could ever contradict his stories - or accuse him of bias.

Needless to say that in the scam of this proportion, he faced pulls and pressure from different quarters, which he withstood like a true professional, never blinking, never compromising. For someone who started his foray in Delhi journalism four years ago as a little known Kerala stringer, Gopi’s career is not limited to exposing the 2G scam. Consistency has been the hallmark of Gopi, who has regularly come out with front page stories on a diverse range of issues.

The high-point of his 2G scam reporting was the expose of Nira Radia tape that created a sensation and forced the media to take note of the scam. When the CAG report on 2G scam, endorsed nearly every aspect of the scandal so vividly captured by Gopi in his write-ups, the political establishment was forced to act. The then Telecom Minister A Raja had to be ousted from the Union Cabinet, and the Centre had to order CBI probe in the scam.

Speaking on the occasion, Vice-President Ansari said that in a changed and changing world, it would be useful to remember that vibrant journalism in a democracy is watchdog journalism. “It monitors the exercise of power and influence in society and stands for the rights and freedoms of citizens. It informs and empowers citizens rather than entertains and titillates them,” he said.

He added, “Our media, and democracy, are fortunate that we have shining examples of journalists who not only embody the ethical dimension, but sadly, also laid down their life for the same.”

The Year 2011, the finest year of fights against corruption

The year 2011 can be remembered as the year of uprising against corruption in India. The year started with nationwide raids of CBI on 2G Spectrum Scam and the arrest of tainted former telecom minister A.Raja, leading to the arrest of DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi, when caught up with crystal clear evidence. Unprecedented things like the subsequent arrests and chargesheeting of corporate honchos, though some escaped boosted the morale of common man to rally against the corruption.

2011 summer was real hot summer for the Government and the Rulers, when Anna Hazare kick-started his strikes from April. Raja, Kanimozhi, CWG’s selectively caught scamster Suresh Kalmadi and corporates must had thought of non-validity of money at least once in their life, when hearing the protest of masses assembled in front of Tihar jail, demanding the release of Anna Hazare in August. Atleast for politicians it was a surprise on the assembling large gathering, without spending single paisa for such kind of crowd flow.

The year 2011 also saw the collapse of mining barons Bellary brothers, after the Lok Ayukta Santosh Hegde cracked the whip. Ofcourse there are still some persons waiting in the league to rally to jails. The credit goes to the Judiciary for getting up from its more than five year long hibernation and the persons who tirelessly fought against corruption in the streets as well as in courts.

However, we should not forget the existence of some mighty forces, which protect the corrupt people and collapse the probe and cases against corruption. Remember the CBI’s U-turn in the Special Court by not opposing the bail of Kanimozhi, just 48 hours after her father M Karunanidhi met Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Shockingly CBI was forced to change its stand, even after it pledged in the Supreme Court that they will oppose the bail plea of all the accused in the Spectrum Scam.

In CWG investigation, CBI action was similar to the surgical strike of a commando opeartion by fixing only Suresh Kalmadi, who had only dealt with around five percent of the expenditure on the administration and execution of the games. The saved persons can breathe till none crusades like what Subramanian Swamy or Prashant Bhushan did to expose the spectrum scam. Same is the case of KG Basin scandal, where Mukesh Ambani minted money. Somehow his brother Anil Ambani saved though his top officials caught in 2G scam. I defer from CBI findings on this issue like Chidambaram’s involvement or reasons behind the silence in spectrum allocation.

The year 2011 also witnessed the dirty tricks from government side against crusaders, especially belong to Team Anna with help of certain media. CDs were created to defame people, hit squads were bought in. Look at the way Delhi Police being demonised to deal Baba Ramdev.

In India the law enforcement is still in nascent stages, when compared to civilised countries. Here the Law acts person to person and case to case basis. No media persons involved in the Nira Radia were questioned any agency or any forum. There was a hue and cry from certain quarters when Public Accounts Committee made an attempt to call media persons like Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi on Radia gate. I envy on the courage of British Parliament panel which summoned the mighty media mogul Rupert Murdoch and brought to books. When will our Parliament and Parliamentarians get such courage?

Certain politicians only make false claim that “Parliament is supreme” and force us to believe so, though the fact of the matter is – We the people made Constitution is supreme. Battles have won. But the war is still on. Let us expect more victories in 2012.

Chidambaram in 2G radar

The Pioneer's series of reports on Home Minister P.Chidambaram's role in 2G Scam in September, 2011 - February 2012

CBI changing probe line to save PC ?
Sep 19, 2011

It seems to be a case of applying two yardsticks for two former Finance Ministers. The CBI, which has announced the need for questioning Jaswant Singh — the Finance Minister during the NDA regime — has apparently given a clean chit to P Chidambaram, who was the Finance Minister when the 2G spectrum scam occurred.

The investigating agency has admitted to lapses by the Finance Ministry under Chidambaram in 2G spectrum allocation and pricing but has asserted there’s “no criminal misconduct”. The agency has squarely blamed former Telecom Minister A Raja for the entire scam.

“Investigation in the matter so far has not disclosed criminal misconduct on the part of any public servant of the Ministry of Finance,” summed up CBI joint director Hitesh C Awasthy in his two-page response to Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy.

Chidambaram’s lawyer PP Rao had insisted before the Supreme Court that the CBI’s letter should be produced. The matter will come up before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, when it will consider Swamy’s petition seeking a CBI probe into Chidambaram’s role.

Swamy has in his petition alleged that Chidambaram “colluded with Raja” in fixing the spectrum pricing at lower level. It was after the Prime Minister rejected his petition to grant sanction for prosecution and the CBI turned down his petition that Swamy approached Supreme Court.

Objecting to Swamy’s arguments against Chidambaram on September 8 in the Supreme Court, the Government hired private lawyer Rao, who pressed for the production of these observations by the CBI.

Explaining the lapses of the Finance Ministry, the CBI said, “The Secretary, Finance (D Subbarao) took up this issue (spectrum pricing) with the Secretary, Department of Telecom and stressed the need to include spectrum pricing in the terms of teference of the GoM. This matter was again taken up by Secretary of Finance with Secretary, DoT, on November 22, 2007.”

It added, “However, DoT had by that time issued in-principle approval to three firms (Reliance Communications, Tata Teleservices and Shyam Telelink) for dual technology spectrum at prices determined in 2001. The Secretary, Finance, asked DoT to stay further implementation of the matter till the Ministry of Finance was consulted and a decision taken. The matter was taken up by Ministry of Finance with DoT on further occasions as well.”

Putting the entire blame on Raja, the CBI noted, “On January 10, 2008, DoT allocated 120 new licences at 2001 prices. Investigations has revealed that A Raja deliberately ignored advice of the Finance Ministry and other high offices for revision of entry fee or auction of spectrum, etc.”
Swamy challenged the rationale of the CBI in adopting different yardsticks in declaring to question Jaswant Singh and avoiding questioning of Chidambaram.

While telling the Supreme Court how far the probe had progressed, the CBI recently said that during the NDA regime, spectrum pricing was fixed by the GoM headed by the then Finance Minister Jaswant Singh and that it needed to question him for arriving at a final conclusion. But in case of Chidambaram, Finance Minister during the tenure of Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran and Raja, the CBI took a different yardstick.
As things stand, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has had on different occasions, including in Parliament, said, “Though there were difference of opinion between the two ministers (Chidambaram and Raja) in the initial stage, later they were on the same page.” He even cited the meetings between the duo on the spectrum pricing. However, the Finance Ministry, now says, no minutes were prepared on the said meetings between Raja and Chidambaram.

Swamy in his petition also alleged that the controversial company Telenor, which is also operating in Pakistan and Bangladesh, got clearance from the Home Ministry, when Chidambaram assumed office. Demanding the intervention of the Supreme Court, he accused the CBI of going soft on Chidambaram, who cleared the sale of shares of the major scam beneficiaries Swan and Unitech to multinational companies at a whopping price.

Govt lied on PC-Raja meet
Sep 21, 2011

The Government’s claim that minutes of the meeting between former Telecom Minister A Raja and then Finance Minister P Chidambaram on January 30, 2008 were not maintained has turned out to be totally misleading.

Documents in possession of The Pioneer show that the minutes of the meeting were prepared and signed by none other than then Finance Secretary D Subbarao. The meeting, which took place 20 days after the controversial allotment of spectrum by Raja, reveals that Chidambaram said that there was no need to “revisit” the mode adopted by Raja for spectrum allotment.

“FM (Finance Minister) said that for now we are not seeking to revisit the current regimes for entry fee or revenue share,” said point No: 5 of the ‘hushed up’ minutes of the meeting between Raja and Chidambaram. This observation of Chidambaram clearly shows that he had overruled the then Finance Secretary who had issued directions to stay the allotment of telecom licences and spectrum at the entry fee of Rs 1,658 crore, a price fixed seven years ago. The Finance Secretary had directed the stay on the spectrum allocation on November 22, 2007.

Incidentally, on January 15, 2008 Chidambaram wrote to PM Manmohan Singh to treat Raja’s dubious spectrum allotment as a “closed chapter”. On several occasions and even in Parliament, the Prime Minister said that “there were initial differences between two Ministers” (Telecom and Finance) on the spectrum pricing, and “later they were on the same page.”

Singh even disclosed the dates of the meeting between Raja and Chidambaram, but Government managers, including Parliamentary Affairs Minister PK Bansal, said there were no minutes of the meeting. The Government also justified the non-preparation of the minutes, saying that it was not always possible for the Finance Minister to record what transpired with other Ministers.

The then Telecom Secretary, Siddharth Behura, currently in jail along with Raja, and Advisor (Wireless) PK Garg, who is a prosecution witness in the CBI case, were also present in the meeting.

As per the minutes, following are the gist of the discussion — the FM suggested that keeping in view of lessons of experience, allotment of licences and allocation of spectrum must be based on solid legal grounds.

It was agreed that the optimum number of operators per circle would be about seven.
It was noted that there is a mismatch in the demand and supply of spectrum across circles. Redressing this mismatch will be another policy imperative, said the details of the minutes of the meeting which took place after 20 days after the scam.

The meeting also discussed the changing of merger and acquisition rules in the telecom sector. “We also need to check the current rules and regulations governing withdrawal of spectrum in the event of: a) not rolling over, b) merger and acquisition, and c) trading away spectrum,” said the last point of discussion between Raja and Chidambaram.

Incidentally, after three months of this meeting, on April 2008, Raja dubiously issued an order changing the merger and acquisition rules, diluting the existing lock in period condition of three years. This new order facilitated the windfall gain to Swan and Unitech, who offloaded their shares to multinational telecom companies Etisalat and Telenor.

The minutes also disclose that Telecom Secretary would attend a meeting with Finance Ministry officials, scheduled for next day --- January 31, 2008.

The ‘hushed up’ minutes between Raja and Chidambaram showed that the jailed former Telecom Minister had discussed the matter in details with his counter part in the Finance Ministry.
According to the October 2003, Cabinet decision, the Finance Ministry is the ultimate authority in the spectrum pricing. But when controversies raged, Chidambaram always claimed that he argued for auction. The minutes exposes his claim.

On deposing before the Public Accounts Committee, the then Finance Secretary Subbarao said that he had informed Chidambaram, before issuing directive to stay the spectrum allocation. The minutes of the meeting between Raja and Chidambaram shows that Finance Secretary’s objections were overruled by Chidambaram. Perhaps that is why the Government always claimed no minutes was prepared at all.

Pranab points to PC taint

Sept 22, 2011

FinMin blames Chidambaram for failure to stop Raja move. The noose tightened around Home Minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday after the Finance Ministry submitted a memorandum, approved by Minister Pranab Mukherjee, to the Prime Minister’s Office, detailing the dereliction of duties and failures on the part of the then Finance Minister, P Chidambaram, in 2008 in stopping the controversial allocation of 2G spectrum by then Telecom Minister A Raja.

The note endorsed by Mukherjee is a detailed analysis of Finance Ministry’s role in spectrum pricing from 2003 to 2008. While it puts Chidambaram in the dock for failing to check Raja’s misdeeds, it also blames the Telecom Ministry for not cancelling the controversial licences. The note also brings to the fore the ongoing war between two heavyweights in the UPA Cabinet.

The 13-page note of the Finance Ministry was presented to th eSupreme Court on Wednesday by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy during his argument seeking directions to the CBI to probe Chidambaram’s role in the 2G scam. This note was prepared by the Finance Ministry on March 25, 2011 to appraise the Prime Minister on the scam after the formulation of the Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the 2G scam.
The Finance Ministry note shows that Chidambaram was aware of Raja’s ‘plan’ when his (Chidambaram’s) officials alerted him on January 9, 2008, just a day before the controversial allotment of licences and spectrum.

It also blames the Finance Ministry, then under Chidambaram, for keeping silent even after the DoT on November 29, 2007 had opposed the directive of Finance Secretary D Subbarao on November 22, 2007 to stay the award of licences to Tata Teleservices and Reliance Communication.

The note approved by Pranab Mukherjee also exposes the DoT lies, which claimed that the allotments were made in accordance with a 2003 Cabinet approval. Outlining the lapses of the Finance Ministry, and non-implementation of the stay order of Finance Secretary, the note said: “In response, DoT vide their letter dated November 29, 2007 indicated that the decision to allot the dual technology licences at the 2001 entry fee was justified on account of the decisions taken in the Cabinet meeting held on October 31, 2003 and TRAI recommendations of August 28, 2007.”

Puncturing the DoT’s claims, the note says the Finance Ministry was not consulted before giving the dual technology licences to Reliance Communication and Tata Teleservices. Moreover, the TRAI recommendations for giving licence to Reliance Comm and Tata Tele were not valid as it was not debated in the Full Telecom Commission, where Finance Ministry representatives are also a member.

Blaming Finance Ministry for not acting on the misleading DoT’s reply on the Finance Secretary’s stay order, the note said: “This was also not further responded to by DEA (Department of Economic Affairs). No follow up appears to have been done from DEA.”

Blaming the Finance Ministry under Chidambaram for inaction the note said the Ministry swung into action only on December 17 and the file reached before Chidambaram on January 9, 2009. Suspecting some foul play, the note says that the representative of the Finance Ministry never raised the issue of revising the seven-year old rate of entry fee in the Full Telecom Commission meeting, though the officials placed this demand before Chidambaram.

“The note recommended both revision of the entry fee fixed in 2003 as well as adoption of an auction methodology for determination of the spectrum usage charges. The position paper was prefaced with a note of the then AS (EA) [Additional Secretary - Economic Affairs] dated January 9, 2008, which inter alia mentioned that she had been directed to attend the meeting of the Full Telecom Commission, which had been scheduled to be held on January 9,” said the note.

Bringing Chidambaram under scanner for writing to Prime Minister to “treat the matter the spectrum allotment as a closed chapter”, the note says: “This position paper was used by the then FM (Chidambaram) as a basis of his ‘secret note’ to the Prime Minister on January 15, 2008 wherein, an auction based mechanism was recommended for future allocation of spectrum (beyond the start up spectrum), with the spectrum allocations having been made in the past to be treated as a closed chapter. The recommendation was in the context of spectrum usage charges and not with regard to the entry fee.”

The Finance Ministry’s note exposes that Chidambaram’s claims on arguing for auction was wrong. It further says that, in fact Chidambaram argued for auction almost a year after, that too after the controversial sale of Swan and Unitech to multinational companies Etisalat and Telenor at a whopping prices. “The note of the Finance Minister did not deal with the need, if any, to revise entry fee was taken up by the Ministry of Finance subsequently in November 11, 2008,” it said.
Clearly expressing dissatisfaction on Chidambaram’s observation to treat the matter as “closed chapter”, the memorandum to Prime Minister, approved by Mukherjee, argues that still the tainted licences can be cancelled and there would be no legal problem.

Clearly, the Finance minister is critical of Telecom Ministry’s inaction on taking action against the beneficiaries telecom companies even after CAG found the illegality of Raja’s 122 licences.
“There was a way out by invoking clause 5.1 of the UAS Licenses (Telecom Licenses), which inter alia, provide for modification at any time the terms and conditions of the license, if in the opinion of the Licensor (DoT) it is necessary or expedient to do so in public interest or in the interest of the security of state or for the proper conduct of the telegraphs. DoT could have invoked this clause for cancelling licenses in case Ministry of Finance had stuck to the stand of auctioning the spectrum,” said the Finance Ministry note.

Subbarao kept PC in loop
Sept 24, 2011

Several consultations with then FM on 2G, former Finance Secretary told PAC The UPA Government and the Congress may be defending Home Minister P Chidambaram against charges of complicity in the 2G scam, but former Finance Secretary D Subbarao’s deposition before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on February 3, 2011, clearly shows that he had “fairly and regularly” appraised the then Finance Minister about former Telecom Minister A Raja’s move to allot spectrum at seven-year-old price without auction.

Details available with The Pioneer show that on being grilled by the MPs on his communication and meeting with Chidambaram during the scam period, Subbarao told the PAC: “There were several consultations with the Finance Minister (Chidambaram) at several stages. So, I cannot recall exactly whether this particular letter (November 29, 2007 from DoT) was discussed on a stand-alone basis or together with other developments in the telecom sector, but I do recall that in that period (October 2007 onwards), I was discussing with the Finance Minister, fairly regularly on telecom sector issues.”

Meanwhile, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee is expected to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday to thrash out the issues related to Ministry note on Chidambaram’s role in 2G spectrum allocation. In order to accommodate his unscheduled meeting with the PM, Mukherjee’s departure from Washington has been advanced by a few hours. Now he is expected to leave Washington early Sunday morning instead of afternoon.

Subbarao was responding to the volley of questions from several members of the PAC, on how his directive of November 22, 2007 — to stay the allotment of spectrum and GSM licences to Reliance Communication and Tata Teleservices at 2001 price — was not adhered to. The directive had also sought to find new market-based price for spectrum, and suggested auction. But on November 29, 2007, DoT wrote to Subbarao that they were going by the 2003 Cabinet approval for the spectrum allotment policy. After the DoT reply, the Finance Ministry kept quiet.

To the questions, whether he had consulted Chidambaram, the former Finance Secretary, who is currently the Reserve Bank Governor, reiterated: “On this letter of November 29 from the Telecom Secretary, I cannot specifically say that I had taken this particular letter to the FM, but I certainly was discussing with him on a regular basis.”

The recent note by the Finance Ministry to the PMO, and minutes of Raja and Chidambaram’s meeting, clearly show how Subbarao was overruled by Chidambaram to favour Raja’s controversial 2G spectrum allotment. These documents also substantiate Subbarao’s deposition before the PAC that Chidambaram was in the loop.

When Subbarao was pressed by MPs, to provide evidence about his communication and meeting with Chidambaram, he told the members and PAC Chairman Murli Manohar Joshi, “Sir, there may not be a paper trail, but there was certainly discussion going on. Sir, as you know — you have been a Minister yourself in the Government — not everything is on paper or reduced to writing. Maybe there were some file endorsements, but I cannot recall them because the note file is not here.”

To a question, whether he brought the violations and difference of opinion to the notice of the Cabinet Secretary or Chidambaram, Subbarao deposed, “I do not recall having said specifically that we should go back to the Cabinet. That I cannot really say without seeing the file. But I should have briefed the Finance Minister about the ongoing discussions.”

Indicating pressure from Chidambaram and Raja, why no auction of spectrum took place, even after he specifically suggested auction, Subbarao said: “…We (Government) were always arguing on the basis of level playing field rather than on the basis of any growth dimensions that might have subsidised. And if they (Ministers) have chosen so, then as a civil servant, I could not contest that.”

PC snubbed officers to help 2G scamsters

February 25, 2012

Fresh evidence of Home Minister P Chidambaram’s role in the 2G scam surfaced in the Supreme Court on Friday when noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan submitted extensive documents seeking a thorough CBI probe into Chidambaram’s alleged complicity in spectrum allocation during his tenure as Finance Minister.

The new documents submitted by Bhushan showed that Chidambaram not only consented to jailed former Telecom Minister A Raja’s designs, but he also overruled and snubbed the objections raised by top Finance Ministry officials, who tried to prevent the 2G spectrum scam.

The new documents, mostly communications of Finance Ministry, could be damning for Chidambaram. The communication between top officials of Finance Ministry reveal that they fought for more than five months, demanding intervention and cancellation of Letters of Intent (LoIs) issued by Raja on January 10, 2008.

A May 28, 2008 note prepared by Finance Secretary D Subbarao to Chidambaram said, “It is legally and administratively tenable to impose a two-part tariff for spectrum: a fixed, one-time “upfront” spectrum price for allowing the allottees of spectrum to use a public resource for private profit; and a recurring usage charge, whereby Government shares the profits accruing to the operator.”

On the new diluted merger and acquisition guidelines of Raja, the note said, “DoT may be advised that fixation of ‘spectrum transfer charges’ shall be in consultation with DEA.” This was the last ditch effort by the Finance Ministry officials before they gave in.

Forty days later, Raja had his way. The July 6, 2008 note from Subbarao is particularly revealing. It shows that the matter was settled at the level of Prime Minister in the meeting with Raja and Chidambaram on July 4, 2008. The objections of the Ministry were overruled in that meeting. Before the meeting the Prime Minister, Raja and Chidambaram had discussed the matter thrice.

“All the issues have been agreed to as in the note. In particular, it was also decided that the proposal to extend licences for the spectrum overhang period (to make the licence coterminous with the last tranche of spectrum allotted) as discussed in para 12 (on spectrum pricing) of the note will not be pursued because it is administratively and conceptually clumsy and potentially problematic from the legal angle,” Subbarao wrote.

Two months after Raja allotted the Letter of Intent for licence on January 10, a Finance Ministry note of March 11 said that Chidambaram had agreed to their observations and decided to take the matter to Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) for fixing the price of the spectrum.

The note produced by Bhushan in the Supreme Court starts: “Finance Minister approves suggestion of Finance Secretary to use the Note for CCEA as an opportunity to raise basic issues of pricing of spectrum for the entire range of spectrum under commercial use.” But the fact of the matter is that Chidambaram never took up the matter to neither Cabinet nor CCEA.

Another damning evidence produced before the Supreme Court is that Chidambaram literally snubbed a Finance Ministry official for making an official communication with DoT in the form of an Office Memorandum. The officer argued for creating an Office Memorandum detailing the objections of the Finance Ministry with Telecom Ministry. But Chidambaram cleverly preferred to adopt the non-paper mechanism in communicating with spectrum related issues. The non-paper is an informal communication and an Office Memorandum is a valid communication.

Chidambaram, who was in London on April 10, 2008, snubbed the officer by pointing out the small errors, including spelling mistake in his communication. He directed for adopting non-paper mechanism of informal communication with DoT in controversial spectrum allotment issues.

The officers even apologised to Chidambaram for issuing the Office Memorandum: “In as far as the issuance of the wrong OM (Office Memorandum), in the first instance is concerned, the mistake, though inadvertent, is purely assignable to a lapse on the part of the undersigned. For this lapse, the undersigned is agreeable to bear the consequences of any action — disciplinary or otherwise — which the department may contemplate against him.”

After getting the apology from the officers, Chidambaram directed them to adopt only non-paper mechanism in communicating with DoT. “That apart, the draft note received from DoT was indeed considered by me on 11.03.2008. Thereafter, that file containing the draft note from DoT and the proposed OM was not put up to me. What was considered was only a non-paper given to me by the Minister of Telecommunications on which I had been informed by FS (Finance Secretary) that DEA would send a non-paper containing our views.

“It is in this context that the note for discussion was prepared; a discussion took place; and I had indicated my views on the margin of that note. Logically, this should have been followed by sending a non-paper to the DoT. However, if there was an intention to send a formal OM containing our views on the draft note for cabinet received from DoT, that file should have been put up to me and my signature obtained. I may note that I was in office on 8.4.2008 and 9.4.2008,” Chidambaram wrote from London.

Welcoming Bhushan’s petition, the 2G crusader and Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy, said: “I welcome Prashant’s move and congratulate him for digging more. It would be fine to fight battle with double barrel guns.”

It is expected that the Supreme Court will hear Swamy and Bhushan’s petitions on March third week.