Subject to intense cross-questioning by counsel for former Union Telecom Minister A. Raja’s ex-private secretary R. K. Chandolia, Attorney-General of India G. E. Vahanvati has admitted that the absence of a paragraph from a draft Press release that he gave his opinion on January 7, 2008, when it was released three days later, had come to his knowledge by February 2008 itself.

On being questioned by advocate Vijay Aggarwal, counsel for Mr. Chandolia, Mr. Vahanvati said: “The factum of scoring off of a part of Press release came to my knowledge for the first time when I saw the documents before the Supreme Court in proceedings pertaining to the PIL filed for cancellation of [UAS] licence, in which the annexures of the Justice Shivraj Patil Committee report were placed on record. The actual draft with these alterations was part of the document attached with the proceedings…I may have seen the actual Press release (issued on January 10, 2008) before seeing the altered Press release in the Supreme Court. On seeing the actual Press release, I realised that some portions of the Press release, on which I had opined, had been scored off. I cannot say as to when I realised this fact.”

“Never shown to me”

However, in the statement he recorded before the CBI’s investigating officer in March 2011, Mr. Vahanvati had said: “On being shown the altered Press release which is from the file, I have to state that to the best of my recollections this was never shown to me. I am shown a note in the file said to have been signed by the Minister (Raja). My attention has been drawn to the words: ‘Press release approved as amended.’ If by this [it] is intended to convey that the Press release as amended was approved by me, I have to say this is not correct.”

Based on Mr. Vahanvati’s statement, the CBI had alleged that the former Telecom Minister A. Raja struck this paragraph off while accusing him of cheating and forgery. The CBI charge sheet said: “By this dishonest act, accused A. Raja, in conspiracy with accused Siddhartha Behura (former Telecom Secretary), fraudulently portrayed to the DoT that the amended draft had the consent of the Solicitor-General.”

As the cross-questioning by Mr. Aggarwal progressed, Mr. Vahanvati admitted that when a Telecom Department file came to him on February 29, 2008, he saw the draft Press release in its official form. “When the file came to me, I had seen the draft Press release in a particular form and this did not mean that after I gave my views, DoT could not alter the press note. If they did, it was for them to do so. It was not for me to tell them as to what they did was wrong.”

  • ‘On seeing the release, I realised that some portions of the it, had been scored off’

  • However Mr. Vahanvati added “I cannot say as to when I realised this fact”