Congress spokesperson Mr. Abhishekh Singhvi commenting on the 2G controversy said that there was not a “shred of evidence” implicating any Congress minister. As a distinguished lawyer Mr. Singhvi doubtless knows what he is talking about. However even for a layman not well conversant with law, there arise a few nagging questions that continue to trouble. The charge sheet on the 2G scam was filed by the CBI against former Telecom Minister Mr. A. Raja on April 2, 2011. The offences listed against Mr. Raja for the issuance of 2G Spectrum licenses was for the period 2008-2009. Just one week before Mr. Raja was charge sheeted the recently leaked Finance Ministry note had been prepared on March 25, 2011. The note made clear that Home Minister Mr. P. Chidambaram, then the Finance Minister, was initially opposed to Mr. Raja’s decision not to auction the Spectrum 2G licenses but eventually did not prevent him. That disclosure created an uproar and tension between Mr. Chidambaram and Finance Minister Mr. Pranab Mukherjee.
Now Mr. Mukherjee has written a new letter to the Prime Minister in which he has clarified that the note was a background paper intended to achieve a consensual approach by different ministries on the contentious issue of 2G Spectrum licenses. Mr. Mukherjee has defended Mr. Chidambaram. However in the letter Mr. Mukherjee has also revealed that the note was prepared with inputs from several ministries including Law, Finance and Telecom, as well as the cabinet secretariat and the PMO. It may be recalled that the note was released by the cabinet secretariat in response to an RTI application. Mr. Mukherjee’s letter makes clear therefore that all the ministers concerned were in the loop about what Mr. Raja was up to. Mr. Mukherjee wrote that Mr. Raja could possibly “prima facie be held guilty”. However “Mr. Chidambaram cannot be accused of any such thing.”
Mr. Raja was booked for criminal conspiracy, cheating and forgery under sections 120B, 420, 468 and 471 IPC, and under various sections of Prevention of Corruption Act. In the charge sheet the CBI gave details of how the conspirators caused a loss of Rs 30,984 crore to the state exchequer. In the light of the note dated March 25, 2011, Mr. Mukherjee’s latest letter to the PM revealing the involvement of several ministries in its preparation, and the fact that it was released by the Cabinet Secretariat creates powerful circumstantial evidence that the PM, the FM and the HM were all aware before April 2, 2011, when Mr. Raja was charge sheeted, of what he had done during 2008-2009 when he was issuing the licenses. But it was the Supreme Court and not the government that ordered the CBI to probe Mr. Raja. This is what raises the nagging questions.
The Prevention of Corruption Act makes clear that even without direct complicity or motive of profit if any official is aware of the state being defrauded and does not act to prevent it, he or she becomes an abettor open to criminal prosecution. Section 10 of the Act reads: “Whoever, being a public servant, in respect of whom either of the offences defined in Section 8 or Section 9 (defrauding the state) is committed, abets the offence, whether or not that offence is committed in consequence of that abetment, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall be not less than six months but which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine.”
The question raging in public debate is which ministers of the UPA government are guilty. In the light of the above facts should not the question be which ministers are not guilty?