By Udayan Kishor, Pawan K Singh & Abhishek Anshu
New Delhi, Dec 21 (PTI) Former telecom minister and DMK leader A Raja, Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi and others were today acquitted in the politically-sensitive 2G spectrum allocation cases by a special court which held that the prosecution miserably failed to prove the scam involving corruption and money laundering.
The court, which held there was no scam in the 2G spectrum allocation in 2007-08 when Raja was the telecom minister in the erstwhile UPA regime headed by Manmohan Singh, also set free all accused in two offshoot cases lodged by the ED and the CBI.
It said some people created a scam by "artfully arranging a few selected facts and exaggerating things beyond recognition to astronomical levels".
In the main CBI case, besides Raja and Kanimozhi, the 15 other accused allowed to walk free include former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura, Rajas erstwhile private secretary R K Chandolia, Swan Telecom promoters Shahid Usman Balwa and Vinod Goenka, Unitech Ltd MD Sanjay Chandra and three top executives of Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (RADAG) -- Gautam Doshi, Surendra Pipara and Hari Nair.
Bollywood film producer Karim Morani, Kalaignar TVs director Sharad Kumar, Asif Balwa and Rajiv Aggarwal of Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt Ltd were also acquitted.
The companies which were not found guilty are Shahid Balwas Swan Telecom Pvt Ltd, Chandras Unitech (Tamil Nadu) Pvt Ltd and Reliance Telecom Ltd of Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group.
Raja and Kanimozhi, daughter of DMK supremo M Karunanidhi, along with 17 others were also let off in another case lodged by the Enforcement Directorate under the money laundering law arising out of the 2G scam.
Raja remained in jail for over 15 months while Kanimozhi was in prison for six months before they were granted bail. Other accused persons were also in jail for varying term.
The court also acquitted Essar Group promoters Ravi Kant Ruia and Anshuman Ruia and six others in a separate CBI case arising out of the 2G scam probe.
Besides Ruias, Loop Telecom Promoters I P Khaitan and Kiran Khaitan and Vikash Saraf, one of the Essar Group Directors, Loop Telecom Ltd, Loop Mobile (India) Ltd and Essar Teleholdings Ltd were also acquitted.
While giving clean chit to all the accused in the three case connected with the 2G spectrum allocation, Special Judge O P Saini was critical of the CBI and the apex court-appointed special public prosecutor Anand Grover, saying the quality of prosecution had "totally deteriorated" and by the end it became "directionless".
It observed that the CBI had started its case with "great enthusiasm and ardour" but at the final stage of the trial, SPP Grover and the regular CBI prosecutor moved in "two different directions without any coordination".
Further, the judge was not convinced with the prosecution theory that the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was misled by Raja or that the facts were misrepresented to him, saying such arguments were taken "just to prejudice the mind of the court by invoking the high name and authority of the prime minister of the country.
In embarrassment to the CBI,
the court said the genesis of the instant case lies not so much in the actions of Raja but in the action or inaction of others and "there is no material on record to show that the telecom minister was mother lode of conspiracy in the case".
"There is also no evidence of his noholdsbarred immersion in any wrongdoing, conspiracy or corruption," it said about the alleged scam in which high profile witnesses like the then Attorney General G E Vahanvati, Anil Ambani, his wife Tina Ambani, corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, then TRAI Chairman Nripendra Mishra, then DoT secretary D S Mathur, former RBI governor D Subba Rao and former Law Secretary T K Vishwanathan deposed.
In the main CBI case involving Raja, Kanimozhi and others, the court held that the depositions of senior officers of Department of Telecom (DoT) and key prosecution witnesses were contrary to the record and they were just passing the buck without suggesting anything.
However, it said Rajas statements matched with the official record and "appeared to be cogent, truthful and as such acceptable".
"The end result of the above discussion is that, I have absolutely no hesitation in holding that the prosecution has miserably failed to prove any charge against any of the accused, made in its well choreographed charge sheet," the judge said in three separate verdicts running into 2,183 pages.
The CBI had alleged there was a loss of Rs 30,984 crore to the exchequer in allocation of licences for the 2G spectrum which were scrapped by the top court on February 2, 2012.
While trashing the CBI case, the court said, "However, on account of the various actions and inactions of the officials, as noted above, nobody believed the version of DoT and a huge scam was seen by everyone where there was none. These factors compelled people to conjecture about a big scam."
In the EDs case, DMK supremo M Karunanidhis wife Dayalu Ammal was also named as an accused in the case in which it had alleged that Rs 200 crore was paid by Swan Telecom (P) Ltd (STPL) promoters to DMK-run Kalaignar TV.
The court, however, said there was no evidence, oral or documentary, to show that Rs 200 crore was illegal gratification meant for Raja and parked in DMK-run TV channel.
It said no evidence was produced indicating any criminality in the acts allegedly committed by the accused persons relating to transfer of Rs 200 crore to Kalaignar TV as illegal gratification.
In the CBIs case against Essar Group promoters, the court said there was no evidence to suggest that they controlled Loop Telecom Ltd, an alleged beneficiary of the spectrum allocation.
The court said there was no material on record to indicate bogus transaction was carried out for securing 2G licences.
The CBI had listed the accused in its charge sheet on December 12, 2011, alleging that they had cheated the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) by using Loop Telecom as a "front" to secure 2G licences in 2008 in violation of Clause 8 of the Unified Access Service License (UASL) Guidelines.
The verdict was summed up in a paragraph saying, "there is no evidence on the record produced before the court indicating any criminality in the acts allegedly committed by the accused persons relating to fixation of cutoff date, manipulation of firstcome firstserved policy, allocation of spectrum to dual technology applicants, ignoring ineligibility of STPL and Unitech group companies, nonrevision of entry fee and transfer of Rs 200 crore to Kalaignar TV (P) Limited as illegal gratification.
"The charge sheet of the instant case is based mainly on misreading, selective reading, nonreading and out of context reading of the official record. Further, it is based on some oral statements made by the witnesses during investigation, which the witnesses have not owned up in the witnessbox. Lastly, if statements were made orally by the witnesses, the same were contrary to the official record and thus, not acceptable in law." PTI UK PKS ABA RRT AG SKV SJK RKS ZMN