2G: CBI gives clean chit to Chidambaram

By : |September 30, 2011 0

NEW DELHI, INDIA: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Thursday gave a clean chit to Home Minister P Chidambaram in the second generation (2G) telecom spectrum case and felt three Reliance Group officials, now in judicial custody, may turn approvers.

It defended Chidambaram in the Supreme Court  saying that the finance ministry under him had consistently favoured "auction and indexisation" of 2G spectrum price.
The apex court bench of Justice G S Singhvi and Justice A K Ganguly was told that the "finance ministry took a consistent stand and never deviated from its position of auction and indexisation of 2G spectrum price (from 2001 top 2008)".

The investigative agency also sought to absolve the Videocon Group, saying its telecom arm Datacom was eligible for a licence, and said there was no basis to allegations that the Tata Group had gifted land to the DMK family for favours in airwaves allotment.

CBI counsel told the apex court that a probe on Reliance Group top brass was needed after three of its officials retracted their earlier statement before the Delhi High Court saying they were mere employees in the decision-making process of the group.

The three Reliance officials are managing director Gautam Doshi, group president Surendra Pipara and senior vice president Hari Nayar. They are among the 14 co-accused in the case, led by former telecom minister A Raja, all lodged in the Tihar Jail.

"Suddenly they are going back on their statement and are now saying that they are only employees and in no way they benefited monetarily," CBI senior counsel K K Venugopal told the bench of Justice G S Singhvi and Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly.

"Perhaps, finally, they may turn approvers."

The probe agency holds that the Reliance Group held more than the permissible 10-per cent limit in Swan Telecom, which was also given a telecom licence, and that its probe will try to ascertain the real beneficiaries when the stake was allegedly sold at low prices.

Venugopal, who was responding to points raised by Centre for Public Interest Litigation counsel Prashant Bhushan, also told the court that Tata Teleservices was an "incidental beneficiary" in 2G spectrum allocation.

"Allegations that it (the Tata Group) had gifted its Voltas property in Chennai to DMK president M K Karunanidhi was factually incorrect," he said, adding the property was issued under a lease and that such an arrangement continued.

The probe agency had filed the first set of charges April 2 and named Raja, his former personal secretary R K Chandolia, and former telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura as accused.

It had also named as co-accused Swan Telecom’s Shahid Usman Balwa and Vinod Goenka, and Unitech Wireless’ Sanjay Chandra, apart from Doshi, Pipara and Nayar.

The supplementary charges April 25 included Rajya Sabha member Kanimozhi, Kalaignar TV chief Sharad Kumar, Cineyug Film`s Karim Morani, and the directors of Kusegaon, Asif Balwa and Rajeev B Agarwal.

The CBI also presented in court a 500-page file on the basis of which the March 25 controversial finance ministry note was prepared and sent to the prime minister’s office.

The note stated that the airwaves could have been auctioned in 2008 if Chidambaram, who was then the finance minister, had "stuck to his stand".

The note was given to the court by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy.

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