Given a clear pattern in the successive clean-chits issued by Judge Om Prakash Saini to the high-profile accused, Mallya may not be wrong. Remember in 2017 alone, he first dismissed all charges against the Maran brothers in the Aircel-Maxis scam, though cast-iron evidence of a money trail from the Malaysian tycoon to the Maran-family owned Sun TV was there for all to see. And the Indian victim who was forced to sell out the Aircel licence at the pain of false charges and willful denial of spectrum was left stranded by the acquittal of the Maran brothers.
Following that acquittal, came the all-clear verdict for former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram. It was nobody’s case that PC or his son had dipped their fingers in the 2G till. No. The charge was, again duly proven if you follow the official paper trail, that even though he too like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh knew that the Telecom Minister was being up to no good, he duly acquiesced in Raja’s dirty handiwork. Without Chidambaram’s approval, Raja could not have pressed ahead and perpetrated the 2G scam. Period.
Whether PC green-signalled Raja because he owed it to his leader in Chennai who had helped him turn a narrow defeat in his Sivaganga Lok Sabha seat into a narrow win, is not known. But the fact is that as Finance Minister he had the requisite authority to stop Raja in his tracks. But the hon’ble judge gave PC the free pass just like the latter had given to Raja.
Now, come to the wholesale acquittals of the 2G accused. To gauge the sheer enormity of the judicial action perpetrated through the blanket acquittals, all that you need to keep in mind is Section 20 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. It explicitly lays down as follows: “Presumption where public servant accepts gratification other than legal remuneration—where…it is proved that an accused person has accepted or obtained or has agreed to accept or attempted to obtain for himself, or for any other person, any gratification or any valuable thing from any person, it shall be presumed, unless the contrary is proved, that he accepted or obtained or agreed to accept or attempted to obtain that gratification or that valuable thing, as a motive or reward” for a corrupt official decision.
To cut out the legalese, the onus to prove their innocence, to explain how Rs 200 crore came to be deposited in the account of Kalaignar TV, owned by Kanimozhi and her family, ahead of the grant of licences on a crooked first-come, first-serve basis was on the accused. The prosecution had delineated in great detail the money trail from the accused to the bank accounts of the Kalaignar TV. Yet, the bribe-takers and, of course, the bribe-givers walked free. Despite Section 20 in the Prevention of Corruption Act which specifically shifted onus on the accused to prove their innocence!
Anyway, not unlike a couple of high profile criminal cases where the lower courts had allowed the accused to walk free, in this case too the CBI is all set to go in appeal to the High Court against Judge Saini’s controversial conclusions stemming from a plethora of evidence to the contrary as listed in his own long and tediously written 1,500-page judgement. Of course, the CBI will approach the apex court for a change of the chief prosecutor since the CBI court had found him deficient, a charge duly rejected by the concerned lawyer with due factual references during the course of the hearings.
Meanwhile, one is aghast at the wilful ignorance and audacity of those seeking “impeachment” of the former Comptroller and Auditor General. Or those who suggest that since the poor and innocent Raja had to spend 16 months in jail, it is only fair that Vinod Rai too spent that much time inside to even the scales of justice.
The onus to prove their innocence, to explain how Rs 200 crore came to be deposited in the account of Kalaignar TV, owned by Kanimozhi and her family, ahead of the grant of licences on a crooked first-come, first-serve basis was on the accused.
Quite clearly, the visceral hatred of the Narendra Modi regime has blinded the accusers of Rai to the basic facts crying out for attention in what is easily one of the biggest cases of organised loot and plunder of the public purse in free India—and which had the tacit support of everyone in the UPA government, even though the actual deed was performed by Minister Raja. These bonded loudmouths of the Gandhi family would not have looked downright foolish had they cared to acquaint themselves with the basic facts which informed Rai’s assessment of a huge “notional loss”.
Writing the other day in the authoritative Business Standard, T.N. Ninan explained what lay behind the calculations of astronomical losses by the CAG Rai. “One figure of potential loss was based on what an operator, S. Tel, had offered to pay for spectrum. Another figure was derived from the prices that overseas telecom operators paid for buying into companies that had no assets other than spectrum…”
Now that a decision to challenge the acquittals in the High Court has been taken, one can only hope those doing a public jig along with the acquitted would pause and go over the grounds of the CBI appeal. It is expected to lay bare in all its fine detail all the gross infirmities, self-contradictions, superfluities, irrational conclusions derived from concrete evidence to the contrary, etc. The zero-loss lobby needs to suspend “we-told-you-so” celebrations till the higher courts have examined the 2G charge and come to what is, and appears to be, a just and fair conclusion.
Meanwhile, those gloating at the 2G acquittals only reflect their deep-seated prejudices when they mourn the conviction of Laloo Yadav in the fodder scam, but in the same breath express joy and happiness that Sasikala is doing time in jail for corruption.
Of Rafool Gandhi and Arun Jaitlie
They say you can take a man out of the bog but you cannot take the bog out of him. Well, we can report that the Pappu in the newly-heralded mature Rahul Gandhi is still very much alive and kicking. BJP has reason to be happy. In contravention of the well-established parliamentary etiquette and practice, the Congress president defied the spirit behind the mutual agreement the ruling party and the Opposition Congress reached after days of stalemate in the two Houses over the remarks of Narendra Modi referring to Mani Shankar Aiyar’s dinner for a visiting Pakistani foreign minister and the latter’s use of pejorative terms for the PM. As soon as the two sides withdrew sharp comments against each other’s leaders and restored normalcy in the Rajya Sabha, Rahul Gandhi immediately lit the match with his cheap jibe. Tweeting under the imperial handle of the Office of Rahul Gandhi, the little master of the Congress firm said that he always knew what “Jaitlie” confessed in the House, that is, Modi does not mean what he says and does not say what he means. The college-grade humour has earned for the Congress boss a notice of breach of privilege from a senior leader of the BJP.
What the RS Chairman Venkaiah Naidu decides will determine the course of the proceedings in Parliament in the remaining few days of the winter session. Unless someone in the ruling party seeks to level the score by tweeting a response addressed to Rafool Gandhi. We keenly await the next instalment of fun and games choreographed by the lingering Pappu in the newly-minted Congress boss.