“I have read the charge-sheet and it was more than enough to convict at-least the political leader named as an accused, if not everyone. The problem, I feel, came at the prosecution stage, when the CBI was required to present the investigation and evidence in the court of law and argue and convince it by using these evidences, that wrongdoing had taken place. It is obvious that this was not done by the prosecutors, who as per the rules, in such a high profile case, are expected to keep the CBI director in the loop. Ranjit Sinha should be able to tell us better as to what went wrong as it was during his tenure that the case was being tried in court, and it was during his tenure that it ‘deteriorated’,” said a senior CBI officer who was involved in the investigation, requesting anonymity.
The investigation in the case started when the CBI was headed by Ashwani Kumar (August 2008-November 2010) and the charge-sheet was filed when A.P. Singh was the director (November 2010-November 2012). After that Ranjit Sinha became the director of the agency (30 November 2012-30 November 2014), during whose tenure the case was presented by the CBI legal team in the court of Special CBI judge, O.P. Saini. Judge Saini, too, in his judgement has stated that initially the prosecution started with great enthusiasm, but later that enthusiasm waned.
In November 2014, when Sinha was still the CBI director, the Supreme Court passed an order asking Sinha not to interfere in the 2G scam probe. The bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu, Justice M.B. Lokur and Justice A.K. Sikri, in a written order, said it was “not giving elaborate reasons” for its decision in order “to protect the faith in the institution and the reputation of the Director of the CBI”. The court had given the order while hearing a PIL that alleged that Sinha interfered in the investigation and the prosecution of the 2G spectrum scam case.
The 126-page charge sheet filed in April 2011, excluding the annexure, is a damning indictment of the policies that were being followed by the then Telecom Minister A. Raja, who has been repeatedly described in the charge-sheet as the key perpetrator of the entire 2G scam.
The CBI charge-sheet was prepared by the SP rank officer Priyadarshi, who is a CBI cadre officer and forwarded by the late Suresh Kumar Palsania, DIG, an IPS officer of the 1996 batch, who passed away in November 2012 at the age of 44 due to illness. It is a meticulous piece of investigative report that relied heavily on documentary proofs to arrive at its conclusion.
While preparing the charge-sheet, the IO (investigating officer Priyadarshi) interacted with and recorded the statements of people ranging from Mukesh Kumar, who was a peon in the Ministry of Communication, to Nripendra Mishra, who was then chairman of TRAI, to corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, D. Subba Rao, who was then Secretary, Finance, and the much powerful A.N. Sethuraman, the then group president of Reliance.
Apart from the statements, the charge-sheet also contained a trove of documents including copies of relevant files that were seized during various searches carried out during the investigation.
“If you go through the charge-sheet, while forgetting the Thursday judgement, the thing that will come to your mind is that a thorough investigation was actually done in the case. The number of people who were examined belonging to different areas and positions, and the massive number of documents on which the charge-sheet was based, clearly proved that the CBI, at least when it was investigating, did its job in a fairly good way. What happened after that comes under the purview of the ‘prosecution wing’ of the CBI, not the ‘investigation wing’,” said a source familiar with the entire investigation.
Commenting on the way the CBI “fought” the case, the court said, “In the beginning, the prosecution started with the case with great enthusiasm and ardour. However, as the case progressed, it became highly cautious and guarded in its attitude, making it difficult to discern as to what prosecution wanted to prove.”
The court further stated “However, by the end, the quality of prosecution totally deteriorated and it became directionless and diffident. Not much is required to be written as the things are apparent from the perusal of the evidence itself. However, a few instances would suffice to indicate the behaviour of the prosecution. Several applications and replies were filed in the Court on behalf of the prosecution. However, in the latter and also in the final phase of the trial, no senior officer or prosecutor was willing to sign these applications or replies and the same used to be signed by a junior most officer Inspector Manoj Kumar posted in the Court. When questioned, the reply of the regular Sr. PP would be that the learned Spl. PP would sign it and when the learned Spl. PP was questioned, he would say that CBI people would sign it.
“This shows that the learned Spl. PP and the regular prosecutor were moving in two different directions without any coordination. Many more things can be said but that would only add to the length of the order.”
The CBI in its charge-sheet has stated that “during May-2007, accused Andimuthu Raja (A. Raja) took over as Minister of Communications & Information Technology (MOC&lT). Accused Ravindra Kumar Chandolia (R.K. Chandolia) also joined as Private Secretary (PS) to MOC&lT at the same time. In January 2008 accused Siddhartha Behura joined Department of Telecommunications in Ministry of Communications & Information Technology as Secretary (Telecom). Accused Siddhartha Behura and R.K. Chandolia had earlier also worked with accused A. Raja, as Additional Secretary and PS, respectively, when accused A. Raja was Minister of Environment & Forests, and were acquainted with each other. Investigation also revealed that accused A. Raja was also already familiar with accused Shahid Baiwa, Vinod Goenka and Sanjay Chandra in context of various clearances of Ministry of Environment & Forests to various real estate-projects of their companies, M/s DB Realty Ltd. and M/s Unitech Ltd. respectively, operating in real estate projects, during the tenure of accused A. Raja as Minister of Environment.”
It further goes on to say “Accused A. Raja, in pursuance of conspiracy and for ensuring better prospects for his favoured companies decided the cutoff date to be 01.10.2007. A press release was issued to this effect on 24.09.2007, which appeared in newspapers on 25.9.2007. The investigation has revealed that even though this cutoff date of 01.10.2007 had been announced, accused A. Raja, in conspiracy with other accused persons, had already taken a view to keep the cutoff date as 25.09.2007, as earlier conveyed to Access services cell officer by accused, R.K. Chandolia.”
“A. Raja, in pursuance of the said conspiracy brushed aside the legal position & the mandate of the TRAI on need and timing for introduction of new service providers; and instead arbitrarily decided on 02.11.2007 on file the cutoff date to be 25.9.2007, thereby benefiting M/s Unitech Wireless (Tamilnadu) Pvt.Ltd. (representing all the 8 Unitech group companies later merged into it) for many telecom circles and M/s Swan Telecom Pvt. Ltd’ for Delhi Circle.
“In furtherance of the conspiracy, accused A. Raja, later on, the same day, i.e. 02.11.2007 itself, wrote a letter to the Honourable Prime Minister, misrepresenting the facts & fraudulently justifying his decision regarding the cutoff date of 25.9.2007 on the ground ‘that’ on this date the announcement of cutoff date appeared in newspapers. He also misled the Hon’ble Prime Minister and incorrectly stated the opinion of the Ministry of Law & Justice to refer the matter to EGOM to be out of context.
“Investigation has revealed that accused A. Raja was already in conspiracy with accused Sanjay Chandra, Shahid Balwa and Vinod Goenka before the publication of the cut-off date in newspapers. He knowingly misrepresented the facts and misled the Hon’ble PM while mentioning that the department was not deviating from the existing procedure in as much as the overriding principle of introducing the new cellular operators subject to availability of sufficient spectrum was flouted.” Ultimately the court found all the accused eligible to be given the benefit of doubt and acquitted.