Defending the indefensible may be part of the lawyer's trade but this doesn't extend to a flagrant distortion of easily verifiable facts. Union Communications Minister Kapil Sibal, who shocked everyone with his claim of zero-loss to the exchequer in 2G spectrum allocation, was rapped on the knuckles by the Supreme Court — which asked him to “behave with some sense of responsibility.” Mr. Sibal, in an egregious overflow of enthusiasm to defend his predecessor, A. Raja, and the United Progressive Alliance government, sought to debunk the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the spectrum controversy. Just as the Central Bureau of Investigation seemed to be getting serious about its investigation into the 2G spectrum allocation scandal, and a one-man committee was starting to look into the procedures and policies of the Department of Telecommunications in granting 2G licences since 2001, Mr. Sibal presented himself as an omniscient authority on the subject and prejudged the case. The Supreme Court registered its concern over the impact the Minister's statement might have on the CBI's investigation. Mr. Sibal, a distinguished lawyer, will hopefully realise the full import of the Supreme Court's observations against him. The court's larger concern of course is to ensure independent investigation, without fear or favour, by the premier criminal investigation agency.
With the highest court in the land now monitoring the investigation into the 2G spectrum scandal, the CBI should have the nerve to get on with the investigation without allowing any intervention or improper inputs from its political masters. But this is easier said than done. Clearly, there is no systemic protection for India's investigating agencies. In several criminal cases that have the potential to hurt those in power at the centre, the CBI has handled the investigation in a way that achieves the end-result of aborted or failed prosecution. The Bofors case, which is synonymous with political corruption, is a notorious case of investigators acting in the service of their political bosses. If the UPA government has any intention of getting to the truth in the telecom scam, Mr. Sibal should publicly retract his irresponsible, over-the-top comments made at a sensitive juncture. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh owes it to the nation to dissociate his government from his Minister's act of egregious folly, and to provide credible assurances that there will be no further political obstruction of efforts to get to the truth. If he fails to do this, the perception is bound to grow that yet another cover-up of big league corruption is afoot.