New Delhi, Oct 13: The Supreme Court today expressed its anguish that the stand of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh favouring “auctioning” of 2G spectrum was ignored and no no timely action was taken to prevent the scam.
A bench of justices G S Singhvi and H L Dattu criticised the government for its handling of the situation ahead of 2G spectrum allocation in which the policy of “auction” was given a go bye and telecom ministry under A Raja adopted the first-come-first served policy.
The Bench said even when the then Telecom Minister did not agree with the Prime Minister for auctioning the “scarce” spectrum and went ahead with issuing Letters of Intent (LoIS), no timely action was taken to prevent the situation which has arisen today and the matter reached the courts.
The bench was hearing the bail pleas of jailed Managing Director of Unitech Wireless (Tamil Nadu) Pvt Ltd Sanjay Chandra and Swan Telecom's Director Vinod Goenka in the case.
“You are expressing apprehension that the accused may tamper with the evidence and affect the CBI case if granted bail. The charge sheet contains a date, November 2, 2007 which is a crucial date. Everybody knows about that date and you (CBI) also know.
“The head of the Government writes a letter that spectrum is scarce commodity and it should be auction. The Minister (then telecom minister A Raja) did not agree. The Finance Department also objected. Do you think the government was not aware of what was going on,” the bench said while Raval was opposing the bail pleas of the accused.
The bench also referred to the scheduled Telecom
Commission meeting of Janaury 9, 2008 which was postponed to January 15 and on January 10, Raja issued 122 LoIs for the 2G spectrum without following the policy of auction.
“At this stage you could have avoided entire exercise by taking a decision this way or that way. What prevented the government to take a step for all these three years,” the bench asked and said “LoIs in itself does not create a right and government should have taken a step”.
“Three years from September-October 2008 when complaints in writing were made including to the CVC about the seriousness of the issue, couldn't steps have been taken to put an end,” it further said.
The ASG responded to the remarks by saying that it was on January 10, 2008 that it came to the knowledge of the Government that a decision has been taken by the then telecom minister for allocating the 2G spectrum.
“Today we are examining the role of these persons who have involved in the decision of January 10,” he said.
The ASG said “the involvement of the sitting minister (Raja) reflects the gravity and nature of the offence”.
The Bench was questioning the CBI about the delay in completing the procedure which was coming in way of commencing the trial of the case.
“The question is how many days they are going to be behind bars as the trial is yet to start. Will it be over in seven years,” the bench asked.
It observed that senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, who is representing some of the accused in the case, will take his “sweet time” to cross-examine the witnesses and it could be possible that he may take a month to examine even a single witness.
However, the ASG tried to justify the manner of investigation and said “investigation in this case has been going at a tremendous pace which otherwise would have taken enormous time”.
The statement evoked sharp reaction from the bench, which said “you are still at the stage of filing other additional charges”.
The ASG's submission that bail is the discretion of the court was opposed by Jethmalani, who said bail is the right of the accused unless the conduct was questionable.