Former Telecom Secretary Shyamal Ghosh, who was recently exonerated by a CBI special court in a case related to causing loss to the exchequer while allocating spectrum, feels that there is a need to bring in legislative and procedural change to protect a bureaucrat from being hounded for political reasons.
“The judgement (in which he was acquitted) will give my serving colleagues the confidence that there is a rule of law that will protect them if they have not done anything wrong. This case also points to the fact that there is a need for a legislative and procedural change to protect both the serving and retired bureaucrats from being prosecuted later for reasons other than merit,” Ghosh said.
Ghosh, who retired in 2002 as the Telecom Secretary, was visited by the CBI in November 2011 for allegedly allocating spectrum illegally in 2002 along with the then Telecom Minister Pramod Mahajan, who passed away in 2006.
According to Ghosh, a 1965 batch officer, he had no clue why the case was filed after nine years of his retirement. “I joined the telecom department in February 2000 and at that time the sector was still at its nascent stage with the government pushing aggressively for mobile expansion and we took decisions accordingly. There is always two ways to look at things, either see it as a mathematical calculation or see it holistically and when you make a policy and implement it, you take a holistic view, especially when you consider the fact that telecom sector needed a push,” he said.
Ghosh hinted that there was a political machination at work to frame false charges against him. “There was an attempt made to deliberately find fault. Enough material is floating around (on whether there was a political reason behind the raid or not). Why certain things happened, I have no explanation. Why the period between 2001 and 2007 was visited again, I do not know.”
Ghosh, always seen by his peers as an honest and upright officer, said that he suffered intense mental trauma initially when the CBI raid took place. “The biggest concern in this kind of situation is how to face society, because once a CBI raid has happened against you, you are pronounced as guilty by everybody. Imagine 10 years after retiring from service you get a knock from the CBI on the door and they say that they have come to check the house. When they arrived, it was only me and my wife who were staying at this house. The CBI team was accompanied by the media and they were flashing the entire incident over TV,” Ghosh recalled.
According to him, he retreated into a shell after the raid and was in a state of shock for one month. “The social stigma attached to such a thing can only be understood by someone who has gone through it. My wife got extremely worried and since I had gone into a shell, she would ask me why I was not speaking out when I had done nothing wrong. After some time, I caught hold of myself and gathered my thoughts on how should I handle this now,” he added.
After the raid, Ghosh voluntarily resigned from the various posts he was holding, including that of the president of the residential society where he is staying. “I also resigned from NASSCOM, as according to me, it is not a good practice to have somebody who has a CBI case pending against him, as its member,” he said.
After the raids, among the first persons to ring him up was his senior, Purna Chandra Hota, a 1962 batch IAS officer who was the chairman of the UPSC at the time. “It was he who arranged lawyers who worked pro-bono for me. Then there was a young lawyer, who was a friend of my son, who worked for a pittance for me. All of them were able to convince the court that I was not guilty,” he said.
He regretted that despite taking decisions which the whole ministry thought were under the purview of the policy and which were required for the telecom industry, he had to suffer so much of trauma. “After retirement you don’t get any protection against sanction under the Prevention of Corruption Act. There is no support from the government after retirement. Once a case was filed against me, I had to get the facts together, search and collect old documents and engage a CA. I just wish that none of my friends and young colleagues face this kind of trauma,” Ghosh said.
“I just want to say that policymakers and political leaders should take a much holistic view on policy issues rather than finding fault. You can find fault with any decisions and if this finding fault attitude becomes the policy, then no bureaucrat will be able to take any decision. That will cause bigger harm to the government. An IAS officer becomes a secretary at the end of his professional tenure and he is responsible for taking policy decisions and if he does not have protection then there is no incentive for him to take any decision,” Ghosh pointed out.