Former DoT Secretary Behura and Raja's aide Chandolia also taken into custody, to be produced in court today
The Central Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday arrested the former Union Communications and Information Technology Minister, A. Raja, and two officers who had worked under him, for their role in the grant of licences and allocation of 2G spectrum during 2008 in violation of established guidelines and procedures.
Mr. Raja (47), as well as Siddhartha Behura, former Secretary in the Department of Telecommunications, and R.K. Chandolia, who was Private Secretary to the Minister, were summoned to the agency's headquarters here in the morning and formally arrested in the evening, official sources said. Mr. Behura, who has since retired from the IAS, was Secretary in 2008 when 2G spectrum was allocated. Mr. Chandolia is a serving Indian Economic Service officer.
In a brief press statement, the CBI said: “Based on the facts disclosed so far during the investigation regarding their role in allocation of letter of intent and resultant Unified Access Service (UAS) licences and spectrum to certain companies ahead of others, in violation of established guidelines and procedures.”
These first arrests in the case relating to 2G spectrum allocation came nearly 15 months after the CBI registered a case under Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) read with Section 13 (2) and 13 (1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 against ‘unknown' officials of the Department of Telecommunications and ‘unknown' private persons/companies, and others.
The CBI registered the case on October 21, 2009 on the basis of allegations of conspiracy and abuse of official position to give pecuniary advantage/favour to applicant-companies in the processing and allocation of letters of intent for UAS licences and resultant spectrum allocation to launch telecom services during 2008.
After spending the night in CBI custody, the three accused will be produced before a designated court on Thursday, CBI sources said. The CBI is required to file a status report in the Supreme Court on February 10 on the investigation into spectrum allocation.
After rounds of searches of different premises, scrutiny of seized documents and computer data, and questioning of a number of persons allegedly involved in the process of granting licences and 2G spectrum in 2008, the CBI had grilled Mr. Raja three times over the past month.
Mr. Raja, a five-time MP, is often projected as the Dalit face of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, a coalition partner in the United Progressive Alliance government. He resigned as Minister on November 14, 2010 in the wake of an uproar in Parliament over allegations of irregularities in granting spectrum. The winter session of Parliament was virtually washed out as the Opposition remained firm in its demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the scam.
The Comptroller and Auditor General of India had in its report estimated a presumptive loss ranging from Rs. 57,000 crore to Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer in the allocation of spectrum in 2007-08. In its First Information Report, the CBI put the loss in the process of spectrum allocation at Rs 22,000 crore. This estimate was based on the findings of the Central Vigilance Commission, which had referred the case to the CBI.
Mr. Raja became Telecom Minister on May 18, 2007 and was re-allotted the Ministry in the UPA-II government after the 2009 general elections. His arrest also brought forth memories of the arrest of Sukh Ram, who was Telecom Minister in the P.V. Narasimha Rao government. The CBI arrested him in September 1996 on charges of abusing his official position and granting undue favours to a private telecom firm.
The Supreme Court has asked the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate to submit status reports on their investigations into the case by February 10 when the case will come up for further hearing.