Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram got a major relief from the Supreme Court on Friday when it rejected petitions filed by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy and the Centre for Public Interest Litigation seeking a CBI probe into his alleged role in the 2G spectrum allocation scam.

A Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and K.S. Radhakrishnan dismissed Dr. Swamy’s appeal against a trial court order that rejected his plea to make Mr. Chidambaram a co-accused along with the former Telecommunications Minister, A. Raja, and the CPIL’s application in this regard. The Bench rejected the criminal conspiracy charge against Mr. Chidambaram on the ground that he had a meeting with Mr. Raja prior to spectrum allocation. Dr. Swamy had alleged that Mr. Chidambaram was a party to two decisions — “keeping the spectrum prices at the 2001 level and dilution of equity by the two companies.” The trial court held that these two acts were per se not criminal acts.

Justice Radhakrishnan said: “Criminal conspiracy cannot be inferred on the mere fact that there were official discussions between the officers of the MoF [Ministry of Finance] and that of the DoT and between two Ministers, which are all recorded. Suspicion, however strong, cannot take the place of legal proof and the meeting between Mr. Chidambaram and Mr. Raja would not by itself be sufficient to infer the existence of a criminal conspiracy so as to indict Mr. Chidambaram.”

The Bench noted that Mr. Chidambaram and Mr. Raja met on May 29 and June 12, 2008 for resolving the then outstanding issues of allocation and pricing 2G and 3G spectra. “Meeting of two Ministers would not by itself be sufficient to infer the existence of a conspiracy. Even before those meetings, as instructed by the Finance Minister, the Finance Secretary and the Telecom Secretary met on April 24, 2008, [and] had agreed that it might not be possible to charge operators already having allocation up to 6.2 MHz and the principle of equity and level playing field would require that the operators who get fresh allotment of spectrum up to 6.2 MHz for GSM too should not be charged for spectrum up to 6.2 MHz for GSM. Therefore, the allegation that Mr. Chidambaram conspired with Mr. Raja is without any basis.”