A closer examination of the ‘observations’ in the JPC report – which gave a clean chit to the Prime Minister on the 2G scam – reveals the report has cherry-picked facts, ignored fundamental procedural questions of authority and collective responsibility, and ignored the treatment by the PM and his officers of ex-Telecom Minister, A. Raja’s letters of November 2 and December 26, 2007 detailing his plans regarding spectrum allocation.
The draft report concludes, “The PM was misled about the procedure decided to be followed by the DoT in respect of issuance of UASL licences.” It does so, selectively quoting documentary evidence, to hold Mr. Raja guilty and the PM innocent, without allowing either Mr. Raja or the PM to appear as a witness in the JPC.
CPI leader and JPC member Gurudas Dasgupta said the evidence reveals that the PM was fully aware of the goings on in the DoT prior to the scam. “The PM cannot be absolved of his colossal failure in preventing the scam,” he told The Hindu.
The report says Mr. Raja had informed the PM about the manipulation of the first-come-first-served (FCFS) policy on December 26, 2007, by quoting an entire section from his letter terming it “a tactical deviation from the existing procedure” but fails to reveal that Pulok Chatterji, Secretary, and T.K.A. Nair, Principal Secretary in the PMO, on the PM’s directions of December 29, 2007, had examined Mr. Raja’s letters and agreed to the “3-stage process” change in the FCFS policy in a “comparative chart” drawn up by Mr. Chatterji. They conveyed their discussion to the then Secretary DoT, Mr. S. Behura, and documented these agreements in file notings on January 1, 6 and 7, 2008. This file was available to the JPC but finds no mention in the report.
Against SC judgment
The second attempt to give the PM a clean chit relates to blaming Mr. Raja alone, for his decision to arbitrarily advance the cut-off date for processing licences, which was later declared illegal by the Supreme Court. Calling it a mere “procedural infirmity” which has “cast a cascading shadow on the decision making process of the administrative ministry, which is highly deplorable”, the report does not mention that that the advancement of the cut-off date was conveyed to the PM, in writing, in Mr. Raja’s letter dated November 2, 2007, and was responded to by the PM on the same day without any objection to such arbitrary advancement.
The only insight into the PM’s silence on the illegal advancement of the cut-off date would be in the PMO files and notings on Mr. Raja’s November letter. However, the JPC makes no mention of the file notings on this letter in the PMO.
The report does not include the fact that the PM was informed of Mr. Raja’s decision, against TRAI recommendations, to implement a cap on the number of licenses – an automatic consequence of illegally advancing the cut-off date. In fact, the JPC rejects the Delhi High Court judgment of July 1, 2009, upheld by the Supreme Court on March 12, 2010, which concluded that by implementing a cap the government “acted contrary” to the recommendations of TRAI, and its own press release of January 10, 2008. The Committee observes the opposite of these judicial decisions. It concludes: “In the opinion of the Committee, the decision may not be termed as inconstant either with the broad intent of NTP 1999, or the spirit and recommendations of the TRAI.”
Silent on PM’s silence
The report discusses in detail Law Minister H. R. Bhardwaj’s refusal to give Mr. Raja a legal opinion by suggesting that the matter be sent to the GoM for consideration. Here again, it fails to provide any insight into why the PM, who was told about this adverse Law Ministry advice by Mr. Raja, in his letter on November 2, 2007, did not question why Mr. Raja decided to reject the Law Minister’s views as “totally out of context”, especially since the Law Ministry had responded to a DoT request for advice on the issue. An insistence by the PM to follow the Law Minister and Law Secretary’s written advice of November 1, 2007, could have prevented the scam.
Finally, the report does not explain why the PM, who had advised in his response of November 2, 2007 that Mr. Raja “consider (i) a transparent methodology of auction, wherever legally and technically feasible” and “(ii) revision of entry fee, which is currently benchmarked on old spectrum charges”, failed to enforce his writ.
Keywords: 2G scam. JPC report