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Congress must call off celebrations – verdict on 2G scam a scathing indictment of the Gandhis

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The Congress, buoyant by the Special Court’s verdict acquitting key accused in the 2G scam has spilled into patting its back for emerging unscathed from the taint. While the party rejoices, the nation is in a state of shock and dismay as it witnessed another case where justice has been mocked by the high and mighty.

Once again, alienated from public emotion, the media groupies of the Congress are responding to the verdict in two ways. One, by completely disparaging that the scam even occurred and was mostly an opposition manufactured ploy which even the Supreme Court bought. Second, the scam happened, but it was nothing close to the 1.76 lakh crore notional figure given by the former CAG. In fact, the irregularities in the spectrum allocation were a routine bureaucratic quid-pro-quo. It cost India its growth, not because of any inherent wrongdoing that came forth, but because the opposition made such a hullaballoo about it, that it sent the dispensation into a state of policy paralysis.

But if Congress and their sympathisers take a break from their premature jubilation to analyse the verdict, they will find that the judgement leaves numerous clues to incriminate the top most leadership of their party.

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The CBI botched up the evidence, to an extent that the case did not stand judicial scrutiny. Something that Judge O.P. Saini observed when he wrote:

Let me take note of the pace with which the investigation proceeded relating to examination of witnesses. The instant case was registered on 21.10.2009. However, the first statement of Sh. M. Krishnamoorthy was recorded only on 21.01.2010, that is, after full three months. The next witness Sh. Gaurav Jain of Unitech was recorded on 07.09.2010, almost one year after registration of the case. Only thereafter recording of witnesses started with some earnestness. However, an outstanding feature of the case is that the more important a witness was, the more delayed was his examination. It is surprising as to how witnesses became goldmine of information at the last stage of investigation, though they were available to the investigating agency at the earliest possible opportunity after registration of the case.

Not only this, the instant case was registered on 21.10.2009 Sh. Aseervatham Achary remained Additional PS to Sh. A. Raja till 29.10.2008. Naturally, he is an important witness and is expected to know many facts. However, his statement under Section 161 CrPC was recorded by the IO on 24.03.2011, after a long gap and only about a week before filing the charge sheet and the witness suddenly became a goldmine of information. This long delay in recording his statement alone is good enough to destroy the evidentiary value of his deposition.

Even when the investigation was initiated, the witnesses critical to the case were only approached when evidentiary value was lost. This led to oral testimonies without any documentary proof corroborating the witness account.

The fact that the CBI Director Ranjit Sinha, handpicked by the Congress, superseding the two candidates in line for the post, was indicted by the Supreme Court for colluding with accused in the Coalgate scam, shows the investigative agency was severely compromised.

It is pertinent to note that the inquiry into the matter was initiated in 2009, the special CBI court, appointed by the Supreme Court, framed charges against all accused and began trial in 2011.

Fresh documents were allowed to be submitted once in 2014 but came with the following caveat:

Having allowed the application, I may remind the prosecution that frequent and fragmentary filing of documents do cause anxiety and uncertainty in a trial, if not prejudice to the accused. As a matter of course, entire documents with list of witnesses should be filed with the charge­sheet. But an occasion may arise where this may not be possible and documents may be filed subsequently also necessitating the summoning of additional witnesses.

But this cannot become a rule. In this case, prosecution has been allowed to file documents fourteen times, though the defence has also not lagged behind as it has competed with the prosecution and has been allowed to file the documents running into about eight full size steel boxes. But prosecution should remember that Indian legal system does not cleave to be theory of hound the accused ­at ­all ­cost ­by ­all ­means ­fair ­or ­foul. An accused is also entitled to certain rights and to a fair trial. He is not a quarry to be pursued, caught and killed. He is deemed to be innocent until proved guilty and is entitled to a fair trial. Filing of documents has been repeatedly allowed on the plea of crime being of a grave magnitude in which officers are prone to inadvertence. Though, the prosecution has been successful in making out a case that the documents sought to be placed on record are essential for the just decision of the case but such practice cannot go on endlessly. It is necessary that the accused on trial should not have the feeling that he is being subjected to a trial of uncertain nature. The quest for truth cannot become a lifelong activity, and if it is so, no criminal trial would ever come to an end.

And then when the prosecution filed an application in 2015, the Court dismissed the plea. In the last, the prosecution again filed an application dated 15.04.2015 for filing certain documents accompanied by proper certification of banking and other authorities on the ground that the documents already filed and exhibited were lacking in proper certification. However, the surprise of the application was that it was accompanied by documents running into about 15,000 pages. This application was promptly dismissed vide order dated 22.12.2015.

The judgement raised vital question on the inexplicable reason for recording testimonies late into the investigation, rendering the evidence ineffectual. It was, therefore, poised to fail in the court of law.

Further, the judgement makes scathing charge on the PMO officials for misleading the then Prime Minister, categorically naming Pulok Chatterjee for covering controversial part of A. Raja’s letter regarding the issue of LOIs (Letters of Intent) for new licenses. The note that was forwarded by Pulok Chatterjee to the Principal Secretary did not mention the controversial bits of the letter of the Minister. The judgement notes that:

Thus, this note gave only a partial view of the whole issue and ignored the most important and controversial issue of new licences. Moreover, the note suffered from the vice of excessive length and technical jargon. It is lengthier than the letter of Sh. A. Raja. Prime Minister is a busy executive. Wherefrom would he find time to read such lengthy notes. Prime Minister is not expected to be immersed in files. It was much easier and better for him to read and understand the letter of Sh. A. Raja rather than this note of Sh. Pulok Chatterjee.

It further adds that:

However, it is clear that somebody from the PMO had given a go ahead to the DoT for issue of new licences and most probably it was Sh. Pulok Chatterjee himself, as his note records that he had spoken to Secretary (T). Thereafter only on the same day, the process of issue of LOIs started with the recording of notes by Sh. Nitin Jain and Sh. A. K. Srivastava. Had the PMO hinted otherwise, the DoT would not have dared to go ahead with the process of issue of LOIs as Secretary (T) had only joined on 01.01.2008 and was quite new in his job. He would not have dared to go against the PMO.

The above observation has stirred up a hornets nest. It is not clear on whose instructions was Pulok Chatterjee selectively passing on information to the Prime Minster.

However, it would be interesting to take a look at what Sanjay Baru, a former colleague of Mr. Chattejee in the PMO had to say of him in his book, “The Accidental Prime Minister”. In the book Mr. Baru describes Mr. Chatterjee as a sort of 10 Janpath mole at 7 Race Course Road and in South Block.

Following is an excerpt from Baru’s book:

Pulok, like Nair, suffered from the handicap that his own service had never regarded him as one of its bright sparks. A serving IAS officer, he had never worked in any important ministry. He was inducted into Rajiv’s PMO as a deputy secretary after having served as a district official in Amethi, his constituency in Uttar Pradesh, where he had caught Rajiv’s eye. After Rajiv’s death, he chose to work for the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation where he did some worthwhile social development work. But this meant that he was not just outside government but completely identified with the Gandhi family. When Pulok returned to government, it was to work on the personal staff of Sonia Gandhi when she was leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha.

Pulok, who was inducted into the Manmohan Singh PMO at the behest of Sonia Gandhi, had regular, almost daily, meetings with Sonia at which he was said to brief her on the key policy issues of the day and seek her instructions on important files to be cleared by the PM. Indeed, Pulok was the single most important point of regular contact between the PM and Sonia. He was also the PMO’s main point of contact with the National Advisory Council (NAC), a high-profile advisory body chaired by Sonia Gandhi with social activists as members. It was sometimes dubbed the Shadow Cabinet.

If one were to go by the judgement and acquittal of A. Raja, it could mean that the then Telecom Minister was actually made a scapegoat of a scam orchestrated at a much higher level. The 2012 judgement of the Supreme Court cancelling the 122 telecom licenses, proves for a fact that a scandal of unimaginable proportions did occur under UPA’s watch. While the observations made by the current CBI court verdict alludes to the point that the masterminds of the scandal have still not faced judicial examination.

Sure, the judgement seems like the wrongdoers have once again gone scot-free. But it has led to a can of worms coming undone, if only one can read between the lines.

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