It would be fair to surmise that there was a loss to the exchequer due to the methodologies of allocation.
In a landmark order that may have huge implications for the entire spectrum of contemporary Indian politics, a CBI special court exonerated all 17 accused in the 2G spectrum case, including former communications minister A. Raja and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi, the daughter of DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi. Judge O.P, Saini said the prosecution had “miserably failed” to prove “any charge against any of the accused”, in the allotment of the national resource of airwaves. While the acquittal of the two DMK politicians and many of India’s telecommunications companies may pertain to the letter of the law and presentation of the case on transgressions against it, what the judgment means for national political alignments is immeasurably more. What must also be reassessed following the verdict is the reputation of the UPA government headed by Manmohan Singh, which had, largely on the basis of the 2G and coal scams, been condemned as one of the most corrupt in independent India’s history.
Beyond political implications, the baffling nature of the judgment does little to justify the changed norms under which the licences were given in an orchestrated “first come-first served” basis and flies in the face of what the Supreme Court itself said about the case in 2012, besides in how the court acted in cancelling 122 licences given spectrum that “were illegally” allotted. The use of the word “well-choreographed chargesheet” is perhaps a pointer to how politically inflamed the case was or how it may have been handled by the CBI, an agency whose lawyers have earned a certain notoriety for not being able to substantiate what investigators claim in their chargesheets. Serious issues of whether the Prime Minister was misled by the then communications minister were not even considered by the court simply as no material was placed on record to indicate the PM was “misled on the facts or the facts were misrepresented to him”.
Regardless of when appeals against the verdict will be pressed in higher courts, the issue shows the failure of successive governments — the UPA authorised the probe by the CBI back in 2011 — to place a finger on suspected corruption alleged to have caused a notional loss of a humongous Rs 1.76 lakh crores, at least according to the CAG. It’s moot whether the verdict is a total vindication of the UPA because, subsequent to the court’s cancellation of licences, a fresh auction process was held which brought in substantial revenue to the government. It would be fair to surmise that there was a loss to the exchequer due to the methodologies of allocation. What hasn’t been proved is whether the graft actually reached the politicians or bureaucrats, who are not blameless as a reading of the verdict indicates. The larger question left unanswered is whether our leaders are as clean as the blanket acquittals make them appear.