Former Telecom Minister A. Raja, the main accused in 2G spectrum scam, has told the Joint Parliamentary Committee that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in the loop over policy decisions and has accused Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati of telling a “series of untruths” against him.
Mr. Raja, who could not personally appear before the JPC, has responded to a questionnaire sent by the committee, saying the Prime Minister and the then External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee were kept informed on the licensing policy.
In his 17-page note, Mr. Raja has said that he had “exchanged letter” with the Prime Minister on November 2, 2007 on various issues relating to the telecom sector and also had subsequent personal discussions on the subject.
“It was agreed in these discussions that the Minister of Communication and IT would have discussions with Shri Pranab Mukherjee, the then External Affairs Minister, since he was heading the Group of Ministers on vacation of spectrum,” he said in his March 13 note to JPC.
He said discussions were held between him and Mukherjee in December, 2007 on subscriber base criteria for allotment of additional spectrum, issue of dual technology and issue of new licences.
Giving details of the sequence of events in run up to the allocation done in January 2008, Mr. Raja said Mr. Vahanvati, the then Solicitor General, was also present in these discussions as same issues were the subject of litigation before Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).
“It is evident that the letter of 26.12.2007 sent by the Minister of Communication and IT to the Hon’ble PM is nothing but an encapsulation of the note given by the Solicitor General and the subsequent discussions between the SG, External Affairs Minister and Minister of Communication and IT.
Hitting out at Mr. Vahanvati for his contention before JPC that the controversial press release regarding 2G licences was changed at the last minute by him (Raja) in 2008 with a different pen, Raja said the Solicitor General had defended the same press release for two years in different courts without raising any question on its authenticity.
He said for the purpose of discussions with Mr. Mukherjee, Mr. Vahanvati had prepared a note dealing with subscriber base criteria for allotment of additional spectrum, issue of dual technology, manner in which spectrum will be allocated and the issue of new telecom licences.
“...Thus government is obliged to scrutinise the pending applications and if the applicants are found eligible, to issue licences on a first-come-first-served basis...” Mr. Raja told JPC quoting Mr. Vahanvati’s note.
Mr. Raja said based on Mr. Vahanvati’s note, on December 26, 2007 Mr. Mukherjee also prepared his own note and forwarded both the documents to the Prime Minister.
He said on the same day, he also sent a letter to the Prime Minister based on the discussions with Mr. Mukherjee and Mr. Vahanvati.
Hitting back at the AG over his deposition before JPC, Mr. Raja said Mr. Vahanvati’s claim that he was not involved in any policy decision by the government was not correct as his note to Mr. Mukherjee contained the “essence” of the entire policy of the DoT.
Mr. Raja said Mr. Vahanvati’s explanation that DoT had approached him with the press release to know whether there was a stay in any court on the issue of licences is “absurd and unbelievable.”
“This factual point was well within the knowledge of the DoT, and the SG’s opinion was being asked on the policy,” the DMK MP told the JPC.
In reply to a specific query by JPC as to when was the sentence ‘press release approved as amended’ recorded by him in the file, Mr. Raja said it was written before the file was sent to Mr. Vahanvati.