P. Chidambaram, as Finance Minister, had an equal role in fixing the 2G spectrum licence prices, the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) alleged in the Supreme Court on Wednesday, seeking a CBI probe into his part in the scam.
Counsel Prashant Bhushan cited before a Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and K.S. Radhakrishnan a number of documents to drive home the point that Mr. Chidambaram was actively involved in price fixation along with the then Telecom Minister, A. Raja. It was clearly established with facts and documents that the then Finance Minister overruled the officers of his own Ministry who favoured auction/market-based pricing of spectrum, and instead, allowed the 2G scam to take place and the companies which got the licence to make windfall profits, counsel argued.
Meanwhile, the Bench asked the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax Department to file a status report on the probe being conducted in the 2G case with particular reference to investigation abroad.The report should be filed in three weeks, it told senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the CBI.
Elaborating on his allegations against Mr. Chidambaram, Mr. Bhushan said the Minister had in no time revised his position from giving away 4.4 MHz of spectrum to giving away 6.2 MHz of spectrum at 2001 prices, thus causing an additional loss to the exchequer. He knew full well even post issue of Letters of Intent (LoI) that it was legally possible to auction start-up spectrum and the provisions of the licence agreement cited by the DoT were not applicable as the LoI holders were not licensees at this stage. Further, the then Finance Minister allowed Swan and Unitech to sell off their stakes, without charging any government's share of its premium on account of spectrum valuation and without enforcing his own agreement, dated January 30, 2008, with Mr. Raja.
Counsel argued that the new documents and evidence showed that within three weeks of the LoIs being issued, the two Ministers met and concluded that14 operators were too many for the Indian market and that several of the new entrants had come in for ‘speculative reasons'. Further, they knew full well that these companies would enter into Mergers and Acquisitions and make windfall profits because of the premium linked to the spectrum they had received in 2008 at 2001 prices.
Reading out media reports, Mr. Bhushan said Mr. Chidambaram was aware of the critical stories about the price of spectrum and asked officials to track all those reports.
The petition said Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy, as a private complainant, could have only produced the documents in his possession. A thorough investigation could be done only by an official agency like the CBI to unearth the role of the Finance Minister/Ministry in the 2G scam. The CBI had so far not done any proper investigation into these aspects and had not even questioned the then Finance Minister.
The CPIL sought a direction to the CBI to conduct a thorough investigation/ further probe into the role of the Finance Ministry under Mr. Chidambaram, under the close supervision of the Supreme Court assisted by the Central Vigilance Commissioner and the senior Vigilance Commissioner.
Mr. Venugopal said the documents being referred to by Mr. Bhushan were part of the 500-page documents perused by the court earlier and it rejected any probe against Mr. Chidambaram. The same set of documents was being annexed now, he said. However, Dr. Swamy disputed his submission and said the Supreme Court had only asked the trial court to decide the matter and had not dismissed his plea. Arguments will continue on April 11.