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Sunday, October 17, 2021

Bird of prey

Court ruling exonerating ex-Telecom secretary and three firms strengthens case to institutionalise CBI’s independence.

By: Express News Service |
Updated: October 19, 2015 12:32:55 am
spectrum allocation, spectrum allocation, 2g spectrum, 2g spectrum allocation case, mobile spectrum allocation case, 2g court, shyamal ghosh, airtel, vodafone, bharti airtel, bharti mittal, uninor, india news, news, latest news The essence of the CBI’s allegations was that then Telecom Minister A. Raja had done nothing new in granting 2G licences later cancelled by the Supreme Court; he was only acting in consonance with the policy laid down by the NDA government during 1999-2004.

The ruling of a special court dismissing the CBI chargesheet against former telecom secretary Shyamal Ghosh and three firms is yet another embarrassment for the beleaguered investigative agency. O.P. Saini, the special judge in the 2G cases, pulled no punches while knocking out the case where the CBI had alleged that Ghosh had favoured the said telecom operators during his tenure in 2002. Alluding to the role of the UPA government, the court stated the whole case had been filed for “extraneous reasons”. Further, it directed the CBI director to take action against the “erring officials”, whose chargesheet was “full of distorted and fabricated facts” placed only to mislead the court. But the ruling does more than simply exonerate the accused. It reinforces the notion of the CBI as a “caged parrot”, as the Supreme Court famously observed in May 2013, mouthing “its master’s voice” bereft of independence and credibility. In this case, the then UPA government used the agency to not only obfuscate its own wrongdoing but also place false accusations against innocent parties.

The essence of the CBI’s allegations was that then Telecom Minister A. Raja had done nothing new in granting 2G licences later cancelled by the Supreme Court; he was only acting in consonance with the policy laid down by the NDA government during 1999-2004. The CBI sought to equate the 2G scam with supposed favours doled out to the three telecom companies during the NDA period. Ghosh’s appointment as chairman of the Universal Obligation Fund, on the recommendation of then Telecom Minister Pramod Mahajan, was cited to allege wrongdoing and establish quid pro quo in lieu of granting additional spectrum to the operators. The special court tore apart all the charges for lack of evidence. The ruling robs the UPA’s narrative of any leftover credibility on the 2G issue and sharpens the case against Raja.

Whether it behaves like a caged parrot or a preying vulture, the fact, however, is that the story of the CBI’s ineffectual existence has proven to be no different even under the current NDA government. Those who chanted “Congress Bureau of Investigation” today stand accused of the same sort of political vendetta. Only last month, the CBI raided the residence of Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh on the day of his daughter’s wedding. Little has changed since the mass outrage against a spate of corruption scandals under UPA 2 fuelled the movement for an independent Lokpal. At the heart of this demand for an autonomous anti-corruption watchdog was the perception that the CBI had ceased to be an independent investigative agency. That there is neither any Lokpal nor an independent CBI only shows how things have remained just the same.

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