Writes to JPC chief highlighting agency’s lapses in probing Minister’s failure to check scam
Communist Party of India leader and Member of Parliament, Gurudas Dasgupta, also a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) examining the 2G scam, has presented new evidence of the Central Bureau of Investigation’s lapses in investigating Finance Minister P. Chidambaram’s failure to prevent the scam despite early warnings by his officials.
Slamming the CBI for its shoddy investigation in a five-page letter to JPC Chairman P.C. Chacko, Mr. Dasgupta says that several “questions, contradictions and the two phases of Shri Chidambaram’s role in the 2G scam, read with his duties as Finance Minister and the Government’s own claim that the Cabinet decision of 2003 has been followed, requires that the JPC includes Shri Chidambaram’s name in the witness list.”
Mr. Dasgupta states that on July 24, 2012, the CBI, while failing to answer the JPC’s questions on Mr. Chidambaram’s role, had instead, offered three reasons for not speaking to him. First, that there was no difference of opinion between Mr. Chidambaram and Subbarao, the then Finance Secretary. Second, all letters written by Mr. Chidambaram to the Prime Minister and meetings with A. Raja as well as instruction to the Finance Ministry were meaningless and had no bearing on the 2G scam whatsoever because all issues came to a close on January 10, 2008. And thirdly, that all decisions made post January 10, were policy decisions and could not have prevented “the nation from suffering the loss as indicated by the CAG.”
The letter questions what happened on file between Mr. Subbarao’s November 22, 2007 letter to the Telecom Secretary, the latter’s reply on November 29, 2007 and the scam perpetrated 40 days later on January 10, 2008. “This question was asked at least six times but yielded no reply whatsoever,” the letter says.
It was based on Mr. Subbarao’s statement to the CBI that the probe agency decided there was no need to speak to the Finance Minister. However, Mr. Dasgupta points out, “Shri. Subbarao’s statement to the CBI does not make any mention of the FM’s role up till the period November 22, 2007 including whether he had any role in sending out such a letter.”
Note before the scam
Mr. Dasgupta has revealed that three weeks before the scam, on December 17, 2007, based on Mr. Chidambaram’s desire to examine the issues, a note was put up by then Director Infra, Shyamala Shukla, who concluded that the TRAI recommendations (no auction for 2G spectrum) were not binding on the government and should be sent back to the TRAI; that DoT’s fear that telecom tariffs would increase if a higher entry fee was charged was wrong; that the impression that the Cabinet (decision of 2003) allowed licenses to be given in 2008 at 2001 prices was incorrect; and that TRAI’s recommendations were being misrepresented by the DoT.
Ms. Shukla’s note, which falls within the CBI’s admitted period of scam investigation and offers detailed advance warning, advises, “there is an economic case for increasing the entry fee,” and “the DEA should take up this matter with the DoT and ask them to revise the entry fee. This issue should be decided by the DoT after due inter-ministerial consultation, and finally, since the matter had generated a lot of heat, the GoM could look at all the issues at length and pronounce its verdict on the same.”
According to Mr. Dasgupta, “This letter was submitted by Ms. Shukla, Director Infra, for comments as desired by the Finance Minister. Why the Ministry of Finance failed to take cognisance of the note of the Director Infra dated December 17, 2007, which stressed on the need for inter-ministerial consultations and revision of entry fee was ignored is an aspect that needs to be clarified. Shri Chidambaram could clarify on this aspect.”
“The case for requesting Shri Chidambaram to make himself available for consultations is further strengthened by the CBI failing to come up with any clear explanations as to why such explicit notings on the file by a sufficiently senior officer of the Government was not acted upon between December 17, 2007 and January 10, 2008 [three weeks],” Mr. Dasgupta writes.
Many pieces of evidence
Mr. Dasgupta further cites “multiple pieces of evidence” such as the Finance Minister’s letter to the Prime Minister of January 15, 2008, meeting between Mr. Chidambaram and Mr. Raja on January 30, 2008, approach paper by Siddhartha Behura to Finance Secretary on February 9, 2008 and two internal notes of the Finance Ministry of February 11 and March 31, 2008 rejecting DoT’s proposals.
Discussions between Mr. Behura and Mr. Subbarao on April 7, 2008 as well as “directions given by Shri Chidambaram to Shri Subbarao on April 7, 2008, that spectrum only beyond 4.4 MHz should be subject to specific pricing”, have been highlighted, which he believes make it necessary to call Mr. Chidambaram as a witness.
It is unclear when the final list of witnesses will be drawn given the reluctance of the United Progressive Alliance to have their senior Cabinet colleagues appear before the JPC.