A former aide of A. Raja on Wednesday failed to recall in a Delhi court whether the former Telecom Minister had discussions on telecom issues with his erstwhile senior Cabinet colleagues Pranab Mukherjee and P. Chidambaram before sending the letters to the Prime Minister in November and December of 2007.
Mr. Raja’s former Additional Private Secretary and key witness in the 2G spectrum case Aseervatham Achary said he did not remember whether the former Minister had discussed telecom issues with Mr. Mukherjee and Mr. Chidambaram before writing letters to Manmohan Singh on issues related to spectrum auctioning.
“I am not able to recollect if around November 2, 2007, and December 26, 2007, there were discussions of A. Raja with the Finance Minister (Mr. Chidambaram) and the External Affairs Minister (Mr. Mukherjee),” Mr. Achary told Special Judge O.P. Saini.
Mr. Raja had written letters to the Prime Minister on November 2, 2007, regarding the cut-off date for applications for the 2G licences. He had also written to Dr. Singh on December 26, 2007, detailing procedures to be adopted for distribution of Letters of Intent (LoIs) on the first-come-first serve (FCFS) basis.
Through a November 2, 2007, letter, Mr. Raja had apprised the Prime Minister that due to unprecedented number of applications received, the cut-off date of October 1, 2007, announced on September 24, 2007 was pre-poned for September 25, 2007 a step that the Central Bureau of Investigation alleged had been taken to favour some private telecom firms.
Testifying as the seventh prosecution witness in the 2G case, Mr. Achary told the court that he did not know if the November 2, 2007, letter was “drafted by Raja surreptitiously”.
He said he did not know why Mr. Raja had called Sridhara, Member (Telecom), to the camp office at his residence for writing the November 2, 2007, letter.
“I do not know as to why Sridhara, Member (Telecom), was called to the camp office instead of A.K. Srivastava, Deputy Director General (AS), for writing letter to the Prime Minister on November 2, 2007. Sridhara is superior in rank to Srivastava,” he said during his cross examination.
Mr. Achary said that besides him and Mr. Sridhara, Mr. Raja had called R.K. Chandolia, his erstwhile private secretary, and one of his personal staff Esakki Rajan at his camp office for drafting the letter.
He refuted Mr. Chandolia’s counsel Vijay Aggarwal’s claim that there was a rift between him and Mr. Chandolia on account of allocation of work.
“It is wrong to suggest that when Chandolia joined the personal staff of Raja in a rank superior to me, I developed a dislike for him. It is wrong to suggest that on a number of occasions there was a rift between me and Chandolia on account of allocation of work,” he said.
During the cross examination, Mr. Achary said various persons from telecom firms, including Anil Ambani of Reliance ADAG, Sunil Bharti Mittal of Airtel, Shiv Shankaran of S-Tel, Sunita Reddy of Aircel and “one Ruia” of Essar Group, came to meet Mr. Raja during his tenure as the Telecom Minister.
Mr. Achary said that after he had visited the CBI office for recording his statement, he came to know that his conversation with corporate lobbyist Niira Radia was recorded by the Income Tax Department.
“I confirmed the voice of Niira Radia to CBI on the date on which I gave my statement to the investigating officer (IO) on March 24, 2011, and on that date it came to my notice that the conversation between me and Radia has been recorded. This tape was heard by me on March 24, 2011, for making a statement to the IO,” he said.
Mr. Achary, whose cross-examination remained inconclusive and would continue on Thursday, denied he had “deposed falsely” in the court and improved his statement that Swan Telecom promoter Shahid Usman Balwa used to meet Mr. Raja and Mr. Chandolia on regular basis.
Asked how he named DB Realty in his deposition before the court as the same was not there in his earlier statement before CBI and the magistrate, Mr. Achary said he remembered the name of the firm at the time of making the statement in the court.
During his cross-examination, he denied having a flat in Dwarka as his ‘benami’ property in the name of his sister-in-law.