Pranab questions role of Chidambaram in 2G mess

NEW DELHI — In a new twist to the second generation (2G) spectrum case, a note to the Prime Minister’s Office from the finance ministry says this resource could have auctioned in 2008 if Home Minister P Chidambaram, then the finance minister, had “stuck to his stand”.


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Published: Fri 23 Sep 2011, 12:17 AM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 1:53 AM

In the note, the finance ministry says Chidambaram could have prevented spectrum from being given away at throwaway prices by insisting on its auction — alluding that presumptive losses worth thousands of crores could have thus been avoided.

The note, which was apparently shown to Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and accessed by way of an application under the Right to Information Act, was prepared by a deputy secretary in the finance ministry and sent to the Prime Minister’s Office on March 25. Activist Vivek Garg had filed the RTI application in the Prime Minister’s Office. Then communications minister A. Raja is already in judicial custody along with 13 other people, including his DMK party colleague and Rajya Sabha member Kanimozhi, in connection with the case, being heard both in a trial court and the Supreme Court.

According to the note, at a meeting with Raja on January 30,2008, Chidambaram had said “he was for now not seeking to revisit the current regimes for entry fee or revenue share” of spectrum.

The note says even the then finance secretary had in February 2008, after allocation of spectrum was agreed upon, said that the Department of Telecom (DoT) could still go for an auction, invoking a clause to cancel the allocation under the guidelines.

“The DoT could have invoked this clause for cancelling licences in case the Ministry of Finance had stuck to the stand of auctioning the the 4.4 Mhz spectrum,” said the note adding, actual allocation of the radio waves were only done from April 2008.

Politically, the note has come to light at a time when Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy submitted some documents in the Supreme Court on Wednesday demonstrating what he alleges is direct involvement of Chidambaram, as the then finance minister, in spectrum pricing.

Swamy presented the documents before an apex court bench of Justice GS Singhvi and Justice AK Ganguly that is hearing his plea for a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into Chidambaram’s role in the scam.

The government had on Tuesday opposed Swamy’s plea to probe Chidambaram in the 2G spectrum case, saying the Supreme Court did not have jurisdiction in the case after charges had already been filed in a trial court. The opposition was quick to react, with both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Communist Party of India (CPI) demanding Chidambaram’s resignation.

“This is something we have always maintained,” said BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar. “Chidambaram is completely in the dock. We have been saying from day one that if he had chosen to over-rule Raja, things would have been different.”

Raja had resigned November 14, 2010 as the communications minister after the official auditor said his actions on spectrum allocation had resulted in a loss of several billion dollars to the exchequer.

Along with him, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had named his former personal secretary R.K. Chandolia, former telecom secretary Siddhartha Behura, Swan Telecom’s Shahid Usman Balwa and Vinod Goenka, and Unitech Wireless’ Sanjay Chandra, as accused.

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