Failure to establish criminal culpability is more a reflection on the professionalism of prosecution in taking the case to its logical end
The acquittal of DMK leader and former Union Minister A Raja and 16 other accused in the 2G spectrum allocation scam is a sad commentary on the professional standards of the prosecution while dealing with high-profile cases. While acquitting all the accused for lack of evidence in what has come to be seen as India’s biggest telecom scandal, a special CBI Court made stinging remarks against the prosecution team for doing shoddy work and failing to prove charges. For a case that became a symbol of corruption and shook the UPA-II government, the trial court verdict came as an anti-climax. None of the charges brought forward by the CBI against Raja, DMK MP Kanimozhi, senior officials of the Telecom Ministry and corporate executives could be proved in the court. However, it must be noted that the Supreme Court had, in February 2012, found the 2G allocation policy “corrupt and dishonest” and scrapped all the 122 licences granted by Raja when he was the Union Telecom Minister and directed the government to go for a fresh policy through the auction method. The CBI charge sheet said there was a loss of Rs 30,984 crore because of the arbitrary allocation of the licences. Raja was accused of changing the rules including the cut-off date, opting for the first come, first served route ignoring the advice by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and allocating the licences to a favoured few in return for the kickbacks. The spectrum allocation was made in 2008 without auction or any revision in the entry fee discovered by auction in 2001, resulting in companies gaining pecuniary advantage.
Another serious allegation was that in lieu of the licence and spectrum, Dynamix Realty, a partnership firm of DB Realty Ltd, and other DB Group companies, paid Rs 200 crore to Kalaignar TV group, part-owned by Kanimozhi, between December 2008 and August 2009 through a circuitous route. The acquittal has come as a shot in the arm for the DMK on the day of byelection to the RK Nagar Assembly constituency, the first electoral battle after the demise of Jayalalithaa. The development also provided an opportunity for the Congress to shrug off the stigma of corruption and claim that the zero loss theory on 2G spectrum allocation has been vindicated by the acquittal. However, the fact that the apex court had cancelled the licences and faulted the procedures establishes that there was a scam. However, the trial court did not find evidence to establish criminal culpability. This is more a reflection on the professionalism of the prosecution in taking the case to its logical end. It would be fallacious to view the acquittal by the trial court as a clean chit to the licensing policy.