The Central Bureau of Investigation on Thursday denied that it had given the former Telecom Minister Dayanidhi Maran a “clean chit” in the 2G spectrum case, and blamed the media for misreporting what it said in the Supreme Court while reading out portions of a probe status report on September 1.
Senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the CBI, told a Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly that the agency was now filing another status report explaining Mr. Maran's role in the Aircel deal, as reports in the media completely misrepresented the report filed on September 1. “What we said [on September 1] was that the inquiry conducted so far has not revealed an element of coercion on the part of Mr. Maran in the sale of Aircel to the Malaysia-based Maxis group”.
Mr. Venugopal said: “The inquiry prima facie revealed that the Malaysian firm was in contact with the [then] Minister and his brother prior to the takeover of the company [Aircel] from C. Sivasankaran. An impression has been created by the media that Mr. Maran has been given a clean chit. There was misreporting and misinterpretation of the status report filed in a sealed cover, a portion of which was read out.”
When counsel Prashant Bhushan began his arguments on an application filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), accusing the agency of not doing an honest investigation, Mr. Venugopal took exception to the remark and said the court should not permit him to make such insinuations against CBI officers who were working day and night probing this case.
Mr. Bhushan alleged that the CBI was not doing an impartial probe irrespective of the status of the person sought to be investigated, as was directed by the court. The CPIL application said: “It is essential that two or three persons with good reputation and experience be appointed to oversee and monitor the CBI investigation on a day-to-day basis [as has been done in the black money case], or the entire investigation be handed over to a SIT. If this is not done, the petitioners fear, this case might suffer the same fate as that of other court-monitored investigations like the hawala case, in which all the accused were acquitted due to slipshod investigations and weak charge sheets by the CBI, or the recent cash-for-votes scandal, where the real beneficiaries so far appear to have got away.”
Meanwhile, Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy filed an application for a direction to the CBI to probe the role of the then Union Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram, alleging that undervaluing 2G licences was a joint decision taken by him and the then Telecom Minister, A. Raja.
Citing various documents, Dr. Swamy said: “We have evidence now that Mr. Chidambaram had three separate meetings with Mr. Raja and decided to grant 2G licences at 2001 prices.”
Quoting a press conference addressed by the Prime Minister on February 24, 2011, Dr. Swamy said Manmohan Singh had stated the then Finance Minister had informed him in mid-January 2008 that he was against fixing the 2008 entry fee at the 2001 price. However, Mr. Chidambaram later entered into a quiet agreement with Mr. Raja and communicated it to the Prime Minister on July 4, 2008, Dr. Swamy alleged. “Records prima facie show that Mr. Chidambaram was mandated by a Cabinet Resolution of 2003, which was reaffirmed in 2006, to jointly determine the spectrum price with the Telecom Ministry.
Senior counsel P.P. Rao, appearing for the Centre, insisted that Dr. Swamy place on record the entire correspondence between him and the CBI so that he (counsel) could respond properly. Mr. Rao objected to Dr. Swamy making allegations against responsible persons in open court even before the court entertained the intervener's application. Counsel sought to dispel the impression that the Home Minister was controlling the CBI and said the agency was acting independently. An intervener could not be allowed to further monitor the court-monitored investigation, he said.
Further hearing is posted to September 20.