Former Telecom Minister A. Raja on Monday sought to rope in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the then Finance Minister P. Chidamabaram in the 2G case, telling a court the issue of sale of equity by spectrum licencees was discussed with them.
Defending himself against corruption charges in the 2G scam, the 47-year-old DMK MP also submitted before Special CBI Judge O. P. Saini there was nothing wrong in his decision of not auctioning the 2G spectrum and that he was merely following the policies pursued by his predecessors and the NDA government.
‘Not sale of licence’
Senior advocate Sushil Kumar, appearing for Mr. Raja, said that when Home Minister Chidambaram was the Finance Minister he had told the Prime Minister that dilution of shares by the accused licencees to attract FDI did not amount to sale of licence.
Arguing that sale of equity was not sale of licence, Mr. Kumar said Mr. Raja cannot be accused of corruption in the controversial 2G spectrum allocation.
“The matter (about sale of equity by spectrum licencees) was discussed between the Prime Minister and the then Finance Minister (P. Chidambaram).
“The then Finance Minister who is now Home Minister had said in front of the Prime Minister that dilution of shares does not amount to sale of 2G licence as per the corporate law,” asserted Mr. Kumar, who even said “let the Prime Minister deny this.”
Mr. Raja further said, “When sale of equity does not amount to sale of licence, there in no question of earning profit. How can (then) be corruption there in this regard?”
Mr. Kumar said if Mr. Raja is being prosecuted for following a certain policy then all telecom ministers since 1993 are liable to be prosecuted and should be in jail along with him as they too followed the same policy.
“If policy pursued by me was wrong, then all former telecom ministers since 1993 should also be in jail with me (Raja),” the counsel said while opposing framing of charges against Mr. Raja.
‘Numbers make no difference’
On the action by his predecessors, Mr. Raja said, “Telecom Minister Arun Shourie distributed 26 licences while Dayanidhi Maran distributed 25 and I (Raja) distributed 122 licences.
Numbers make no difference, however, it is to be noted that none of them auctioned the spectrum.
“If they had done no wrong, why am I being questioned? Let them deny that they have not done what I did. I was just following the 2003 Cabinet decision that is not to auction 2G spectrum. If I am following the law, I am not liable to be prosecuted. Infact, I should be rewarded,” he added.
Mr. Raja also questioned CBI’s authority to decide on the loss to the state exchequer due to the 2G Spectrum allocation. “Who is CBI to decide the loss? Let the Government say so,” he said.
Mr. Raja also argued that sale of equity by way of UAS licence can be made directly to a company or to its holding company.“The CBI, however, is maintaining that when DB Realty gave its shares (in Swan Telecom) to bring in money, it amounted to sale and so is the case with Unitech (Wireless). But, when Tata Tele services give its shares to bring in FDI, it, according to the CBI, does not amount to sale,” Mr. Raja contended.
Unitech sold 67 per cent equity for Rs 6,120 crore whereas Tata Tele Services got Rs. 13,973 crore by selling only 27 per cent equity, he said, adding that even then Tata was not accused by the CBI of committing any offence.
“Who is a better businessman — Sanjay Chandra of Unitech or Ratan Tata of Tata Tele Services? And then they say we kept them (Tata) out of Delhi circle,” Mr. Raja said.
Nowhere in the entire transaction has Sanjay Chandra been named as a conspirator, argued Mr. Raja.
“It is just that a shade of suspicion by way of a loan transaction has been planted by the CBI in respect of Sanjay Chandra The only sin of DB Realty and Unitech, who are actually realty eagles and developers, is that they have got good contacts and brought money from abroad,” he added.
Questions CBI’s rationale
Mr. Raja also questioned CBI’s rationale for questioning the profits earned by Unitech Wireless and Swan Telecom by sale of shares when S Tel earning of Rs. 2,230 crore has gone unchallenged by the agency.
“S Tel also earned Rs.2,230 crore by diluting its shares but that was not considered as sale by the CBI then why only Unitech Wireless and Swan Telecom are caught,” he said.
While defending his policy as Telecom Minister, Mr. Raja submitted that it is because of his policy that mobile phone call rates came down and they became affordable to even a ’rickshaw wala’.
“It was my obligation to social justice that every man on the street should have a mobile phone. I am a servant of my people and I made the call rates of mobile phone so cheap that even a ‘rickshaw wala’ or a maid servant can be seen using it,” Mr. Raja said.
Mr. Raja, who was arrested on February 2 for his alleged role in the 2G scam, on Monday began his arguments opposing charges of cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy against him. CBI has estimated that there was a loss of Rs. 30,000 crore to the state exchequer due to Mr. Raja’s 2G policy.
CBI had begun its arguments on framing of charges against Mr. Raja and 16 others, including three telecom firms, from July 21 and had completed its arguments on July 23.
All the 14 accused, including DMK MP Kanimozhi, are presently lodged in Tihar Jail. Hindu