While there is nothing wrong in investigating 2G spectrum allocation from 2001 onwards, this exercise should not be used to delay the ongoing probe into the affairs of the former Union Communications and Information Technology Minister, A. Raja, according to Arun Shourie, who held the same portfolios in the National Democratic Alliance Government.
“You can file a separate FIR [with regard to the different periods],” he said delivering the Nani Palkhivala Memorial Lecture on “The real significance of scams,” organised by the Palkhivala Foundation and the Madras Chamber of Commence and Industry here on Saturday.
Mr. Shourie claimed that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was aware of what had been going on in the telecom sector but did nothing for almost two years. It was only to deflect the focus from the Prime Minister that the Niira Radia tapes were leaked, after the release of the Comptroller and Auditor-General's scathing criticism of 2G spectrum allocation.
The “objective” of the government was to turn the entire focus on Mr. Raja. “They have also succeeded to an extent.” Disputing Mr. Raja's claim that he was merely following in the footsteps of his predecessors in adopting the ‘first come, first served' policy in the allocation, Mr. Shourie said Mr. Raja did not deal with all pending applications. The last date for applying for 2G spectrum allocation was advanced to September 25, 2007 from October 1, 2007. The eligible applicants were asked to submit compliance with the terms of the Letter of Intent, including payment of the licence fee of Rs.1,651 crore, within 45 minutes.
Mr. Raja had ignored the advice of the Prime Minister and the offices of the Finance and Law Ministers and also the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India in this regard, Mr. Shourie said.
He advised the media not to run after the “hypothetical figure of loss [Rs 1.76 lakh crore] to the exchequer” mentioned by the CAG. According to him, the realistic figure could be around Rs. 30,000 crore.
The former Central Vigilance Commissioner, N. Vittal, said if people were to realise that “there is no other alternative [TINA]” to honesty at every level, there would be less corruption.
Mr. Vittal lamented that the entire system in India was “designed” for corruption. “In no area do we have accountability.” Besides, the Prevention of Corruption Act allowed the “corrupter” to go scot-free. Though confiscation of the ill-gotten wealth had oft been spoken about, no law was enacted.
For reforming the system, he stressed the need for strengthening the judiciary, the Election Commission, the Central Vigilance Commission, the CAG and also the media.