After the 2G trial court verdict, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal speaks with Ashhar Khan about the ‘2G scam’ that wasn’t.
All the accused in the 2G case have been acquitted. How do you see the verdict?
It was bound to happen, as there was no case. I was not the telecom minister when the allocations were being done. I came to the scene after A. Raja had demitted office. When I looked at the files it was amply clear that there was virtually nothing in the case. It was just a case of propaganda against the government of the day that was aided and abetted, unfortunately by the media too. Now almost after six years justice has been done. The position of the Congress and the then UPA government has been vindicated. Yes reputations were tarnished, some people went to jail, but now that has come to an end.
What about the Supreme Court as it cancelled licences way back in 2012?
The Supreme Court is not a trial court. It did not go into the files and details of the case bit by bit. Instead it instructed the CBI to investigate the case. It also appointed U.U. Lalit as the prosecutor in the case. Now a Supreme Court monitored probe by the CBI has submitted a chargesheet in the trial court. All allegations in the Supreme Court leading to cancellation licences were included in the chargesheet and rejected after considering the evidence both oral and documentary, which the Supreme Court had no occasion to look at, not being a trial court. This is what happens when courts come to conclusion before the trial. So to sum it up, a Supreme Court monitored probe’s chargesheet by the CBI was rejected by the trial court. This means there was no evidence. The trial court verdict says “a huge scam was seen by everyone where there was none. These factors compelled people to conjecture about a big scam. Thus, some people created a scam by artfully arranging a few selected facts and exaggerating things beyond recognition to astronomical levels.”
Do you feel vindicated after the verdict?
I would like to ask where is the Rs 1.76 lakh crore that Vinod Rai came up with? In fact, where is Mr Rai now? He needs to apologise to the nation for the figure he came up with. He should be removed from all posts that he holds. The BJP also has a lot of explaining to do on this. They went against the government by their lies and falsehoods. In all this the country suffered. Telecom was a sunshine sector but the BJP and Mr Rai destroyed the sector by creating suspicion. Foreign companies went back, those who stayed had to get new licences, the prices went high and the companies had to take huge loans from banks. As the business was not profitable because non-performing assets (NPAs) rose and look where we are today. The other question will now arise that foreign companies whose licences have been cancelled will file for damages under Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPA)? Now who will bear the costs?
The verdict has also come as a boost for the Congress. Your comments.
There was a sustained campaign that was run against our government from the very top of the BJP. Lots of vested interests also joined in, unfortunately. The atmosphere was such that many people got carried away and termed us as the government of scams. Now the trial court has concluded that there was no scam in 2G, the quantum of loss has been thrown out and there was no conspiracy. All that we were saying about 2G are now being said by the trial court. Well it just shows the power of negative propaganda of the BJP and if there was a scam it was a scam of lies by the BJP.
At a personal level you had said that there was zero loss. Don’t you think that your criticism will now end?
Yes, when I took over as the minister and looked at all the files I saw that there was zero loss. I was trolled, abused and ridiculed but unlike the BJP I don’t believe in U-turns. I had made that statement after carefully understanding the issue. Now would anybody tell me where is the loss? Mr Rai should explain that where is the presumptive/notional loss?
The leaders of the BJP both in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, who went to town shouting scam, I would like to ask them where is the scam? Where is the loss? So the BJP and Mr Rai need to answer now.
Your party raised the issue of the verdict in Parliament. Do we expect that Parliament will not be allowed to function in the Winter Session?
Well our Parliament strategy will be decided and finalised by the parliamentary party. But one thing remains that this shoot and scoot policy of the BJP has to be called out. They have to be careful in their utterances and they cannot malign reputations of people. As far as adjournments in Parliament are concerned, I would like to quote the former Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha and the present minister in this government. He had said that disruption is very much part of parliamentary proceedings. So the BJP would do well to stop giving us sermons over parliamentary disruptions.
How do you see the role of the CAG in all this?
I do not like to comment on institutions, but yes, Mr Rai did a lot of damage to the country with his presumptive loss theory. The BJP had their captive channels that did their bidding and still are doing so. They went ahead with this theory tarnishing reputations of people. Coming back to the CAG, due to demonetisation there was actual loss of close to Rs 3 lakh crore as the GDP dipped close to two per cent. The present CAG said that they cannot go behind the policy of the government, but Mr Rai did just the same. Now there cannot be double standards by institutions. I also feel that public functionaries should be more responsible when they take decisions of such magnitude.
The agencies say that they will challenge this judgment in higher courts. Your comments.
That is the normal practice in such cases I believe. But as I have been saying that there is no evidence in the case.