2G scam case: CBI court likely to deliver verdict today

New Delhi: A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court is likely to deliver its verdict on Thursday on alleged irregularities in the 2008 allocation of 2G telecom spectrum and licences—a scandal that contributed to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance’s electoral downfall in 2014.

Special judge O.P. Saini reserved the verdict on 26 April after hearings ended in related cases involving political figures, bureaucrats and telecom executives. Saini has presided over the trial for six years.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has estimated a presumptive loss of Rs1.76 trillion because of flawed allocation of spectrum when A. Raja was telecom minister in the UPA government.

The so-called 2G scam, together with a scandal over the allocation of coal blocks that surfaced later, cast its shadow over much of the UPA’s second term in office, exposing it to charges of corruption that became a key electoral issue in the 2014 general election which the coalition lost.

Raja, fellow Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) politician Kanimozhi and 15 others are accused in the 2G case, in which they have been tried on charges ranging from cheating and criminal conspiracy to abuse of public office.

Former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura, Raja’s erstwhile private secretary R.K. Chandolia, Swan Telecom Pvt. Ltd promoters Shahid Usman Balwa and Vinod Goenka, Unitech Ltd managing director D. Sanjay Chandra, and three top executives of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group—Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair—are others tried in the case.

Swan Telecom, Reliance Telecom Ltd and Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu) Ltd were also charged under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002.

Special judge Saini is set to deliver his verdict at a time when the winter session of Parliament is under way. The ruling could potentially hand fresh ammunition to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), fresh from a victorious faceoff with the Congress in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections.

An adverse verdict can reverse the political momentum gained by the Congress in Gujarat under newly anointed party president Rahul Gandhi and hurt its attempts to forge an anti-NDA opposition front. It could also bring corruption back to the centrestage of political discourse and undermine its prospects in electoral contests due next year in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan ahead of 2019 general elections.

In 2008, 2G licenses were awarded on a first-come-first-served basis to new entrants and so-called CDMA (code division multiple access, a telecom technology standard) operators migrating to GSM (global system for mobile) technology at a price discovered in an auction held seven years earlier.

On 2 February 2012, the apex court cancelled 122 telecom licenses and spectrum allocated to nine companies, holding that the process of allocation had been flawed. The court said spectrum or any other natural resource must be auctioned.

The CAG found that licenses had been issued to applicants who suppressed facts, disclosed incomplete information, submitted fictitious documents and used fraudulent means.

The apex court verdict set the stage for an investigation and trial to prosecute those involved. The special court began trial in November 2011 in five cases—two filed by the CBI and a third by the Enforcement Directorate.


2G scam case verdict likely today: Here’s what it is all about

A special court in Delhi will on Thursday likely pronounce the verdict in the 2G spectrum allocation case, nearly seven years after the first arrest was made by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in 2011.

The 2G spectrum case is not only important due to the Rs 1,76,000 crore notional loss it caused to the public exchequer but also for its high-profile accused, including a former cabinet minister, bureaucrats, lawmakers and businessmen.

Here is quick look at the case and the accused:

The 2G spectrum case is basically a combination of three cases — two registered by the CBI and one by the Enforcement Directorate.

The first case concerns prosecution launched by the CBI against former Union telecom minister A Raja and others for criminal conspiracy and misuse of official position by public servants. The second CBI case is the Essar-Loop case against Essar and its promoters.

The third is a Rs 200 crore prevention of money laundering case registered by the ED against Raja and other individuals and companies.

The accused:

# A Raja, former telecom minister

# Sidharath Behura, former telecom secretary

# RK Chandolia, IES officer, PS to telecom minister

# Shahid Usman Balwa, managing director, Swan Telecom Pvt Ltd, now Etisalat DB Telecom Pvt ltd

# Vinod Goenka, director of Swan Telecom Pvt Ltd and managing director of DB Realty

# Swan Telecom Pvt Ltd

# Sanjay Chandra, manging director, Unitech Ltd

# Unitech Wireless Ltd (Tamil Nadu)

# Gautam Doshi, group managing director, Reliance ADA group

# Surendra Pipara, group president, Reliance ADA group

# Hari Nair, vice president, Reliance ADA group

# Reliance Telecom Ltd

# Asif Balwa, director, Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd

# Rajiv Agarwal, director Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd

# Karim Morani, director, MIS Cineyug Media & Entertainment Pvt. Ltd

# Sharad Kumar, director/promoter, Kalaignar TV Pvt. Ltd

# Kanimozhi Karunanidhi, director/promoter, Kalaignar TV Pvt. Ltd

# Ravi Kant Ruia, vice chairman, Essar group

# Anshuman Ruia, promoter, Essar group

# IP Khaitan, promoter, Khaitan group

# Kiran Khaitan, former director, Santa Trading pvt ltd

# Vikash Saraf, director strategy, Essar

# Loop Telecom Ltd

# Loop Mobile Ltd

# Essar Teleholding Ltd

The main charges:

# A Raja, along with Sidharath Behura, RK Chandolia, conspired to give benefits to private accused persons in the issuance of letters of intent, unified access services licences (UASL) and spectrum by the Department of Telecom.

# A Raja ensured there would be a cut-off date on the receipt and processing of the UASL applications, so that the system can be manipulated to benefit favoured few

# The first come first serve policy was changed to a first compliance first serve one. The change was not disclosed to the public but was informed only to a favoured few, who had kept everything ready, and thus, were in a position to take advantage of the manipulation, thereby getting LOIs, UASL and spectrum, though they were not eligible for the same

The witnesses:

# The late GE Vahanvati, former attorney general of India

# Nripendra Mishra, former TRAI chairman, now principal secretary to the Prime Minister

# DS Mathur, former DoT secretary

# T K Vishwanathan, law secretary, ministry of law and justice

# Dr D Subba Rao, former governor, Reserve Bank of India, ex-finance secretary, government of India

# Anil D Ambani, chairman, Reliance Group and his wife, Tina A Ambani

# Dayalu Karunanidhi, wife of DMK leader M Karunanidhi

# Niira Radia, corporate lobbyist



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