The Hush Post: Former telecom minister A Raja, M Kanimozhi and 15 other accused were acquitted today of charges in what was described as India’s biggest telecom scandal, the 2G scam in the Patiala House Courts today. Trial court judge OP Saini gave the judgement after 10.30 am having ensured that only the accused and their counsels were present in the court. Saini’s verdict is on three 2G scam cases that he has been hearing since April 2011, two filed by CBI and one by the Enforcement Directorate. The court also acquitted 12 others, including then telecom secretary Sidhharth Behura and Raja’s personal assistant RK Chandolia for helping the minister in handing out the licences.
Raja had been accused of allocating airwaves and licenses for cellphone networks in exchange for kickbacks and causing the state a loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore.
The court said that there was no evidence available against any of the accused. The verdict was delayed as hundreds of supporters of A Raja from his hometown Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu tried to enter the court, causing security problems. According to Raja’s lawyer, the Judge just read out the operative part: “I have no hesitation in holding that the prosecution has miserably failed to prove the charges and all the accused are acquitted of the charges.” A Raja was in tears, said witnesses. Kanimozhi told reporters, “Justice has prevailed.” The Supreme Court earlier cancelled all the licences Raja had issued. The case became the centre stage of allegations during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s tenure as prime minister.
The trial in the 2G scam had begun in 2011, a year after the national auditor said in its report that there had been massive irregularities in the allocation of 2G licences when Raja was minister. In a 2010 report, the national auditor had said that in 2007-2008, second generation or 2G licences had been given to telecom operators at throwaway prices instead of allocation through a free and fair bidding process. Raja, who is from the Tamil Nadu regional party the DMK, was arrested in 2011 and spent nearly one year in prison before getting bail.
The same judge earlier this year acquitted Dayanidhi Maran, another DMK leader who was Raja’s predecessor as Telecom Minister, of corruption during his term. Maran had been accused by the CBI of misusing his office to force the sale of mobile carrier Aircel to an entrepreneur in Malaysia in exchange for a bribe that was disguised as an investment of Rs 200 crore in a media empire owned by the minister’s brother.