New Delhi, Feb 3: Former Telecom Minister A Raja was today allowed to be interrogated in CBI custody for five days by a Delhi court which said the charge of loss of Rs 22,000 crore in award of the 2G spectrum licences to some companies by his decisions "are very serious".
"The allegations against the accused (Raja, Siddharth Behura, R K Chandolia) are that they allotted the Unified Access Service Licences (UASL) in violation of rules and procedure and caused huge loss estimated to be Rs 22,000 crore to the state exchequer.
"The allegations are very serious on the face of it and required no elaboration. Accordingly, considering the nature of the allegations, seriousness and gravity of offences and consequent need of interrogation of accused in the light of the allegations, I am satisfied that the prayer for police custody remand is justified," Special CBI Judge O P Saini said while remanding them in CBI's custody till February 8.
The 47-year-old DMK leader, former Telecom Secretary Siddharth Behura and his former Personal Secretary R K Chandolia, were produced around 2 pm in the packed courtroom amid tight security cover, a day after their arrest.
The probe agency, which had lodged an FIR on October 21, 2009 against some unknown persons in the case, had yesterday arrested Raja and the two top officials under various provisions of the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act, relating to the offence of criminal conspiracy and abuse of official position.
Wearing a grey safari suit, Raja, the dalit face of DMK, greeted the judge raising his folded hands over his head and remained composed during the half-an-hour-long hearing.
Initiating the arguments for the CBI, senior prosecutor Akhilesh alleged that Raja and others had caused the loss of Rs 22,000 crore, which, he said, may go up, to the Government of India by abusing their official position and by the acts of "omissions and commissions".
"For unearthing the entire conspiracy, their further interrogation is required as they are also required to be confronted with various documents and moreover, Raja is evasive in his responses," the prosecutor said.
Instead of opting for the bidding process in allotting the costly radio waves in 2008, the former minister went for the first-come-first-serve basis, he said, adding that even the rates were "nominal" which were fixed in 2001.
Justifying the CBI's estimation of loss, the prosecutor said, "M/s Swan was allotted UAS licences for 13 circles for Rs 1,537 crore. It offloaded 45 per cent of its shares in the licences before roll out to M/s Etilsalat of UAE for Rs 4,200 crores.
"Similarly, M/s Unitech was allotted UAS licences for 22 circles for Rs 1,658 crore and it offloaded 60 per cent of its shares in the licences to M/s Telenor of Norway for Rs 6,100 crore even before the roll out."
"The computation of loss, caused to the exchequer, in these two cases only was over Rs 7,000 crore," Akhilesh submitted.
"On pro rata basis, the estimated loss for all 122 circles is more than Rs 22,000 crore," he contended.
Though the agency has pegged the loss at Rs 22,000 crore based on the calculations made by the CVC, the CAG had in its report projected a presumptive loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore.
Opposing the CBI's plea, Raja's counsel Ramesh Gupta said that he was innocent as all the decisions with regard to granting of the UAS licences had the approval of the Union Cabinet and various statutory panels.
"Accordingly, Raja was not solely responsible in the alleged scam," Gupta maintained.
"All the documents had been seized by the CBI in 2009 itself and moreover Raja had already been interrogated at the agency's headquarters several times in the past," his counsel said.
The CBI should not be awarded Raja's custody just for the sake of interrogation, Gupta said, adding, "There has to be a justification for the same."
Levelling allegations against the media for the arrest of Raja, he said not only the house of the DMK leader, but the residences of his relatives have also been searched.
The court, however, did not agree with Raja's plea and sent him and other co-accused to CBI custody. The judge directed that all the accused be medically examined after every 48 hours and their counsel and family members would be at liberty to meet them.
Meanwhile, accused Behura, whose wife is to undergo surgery for cancer at Apollo hospital, has been allowed by the court to see her before and after the operation on February five.
The CBI, in its remand application, said that the FIR was lodged on the basis of a "reliable information" that the accused conspired with "private persons and companies" in the grant of UAS licences.
Detailing the sequence of events, the agency said DoT had issued a release on September 24, 2007 that no new applications for the UAS licence would be accepted by it after October 1.
However, while awarding the licences, the applications of only those companies were considered which had applied prior to the issuance of the DoT communique on September 24, it said.
The agency alleged that the accused conspired with some private companies in putting a cap on the maximum number of applications which could be entertained for the grant of licences.
This was against the recommendations of the TRAI, the telecom watchdog, that the competitive bidding process should be preferred over the first-come-first-serve basis, it said.
"The DoT officials had selectively leaked the information to some of the corporates regarding the date of issuance of letters of intent on January 10, 2008," it said, adding that as a result, only few of the companies were able to deposit the licence fee. PTI