A Delhi court decided the fate of several politicians, businessmen and top executives on 21 December as it pronounced its judgement in the 2G spectrum allocation scam unearthed during the term of the previous United Progressive Alliance government.
In an unexpected twist, all accused were acquitted in the case.
The Central Bureau of Investigation had pressed charges of bribery and corruption against A Raja and Kanimozhi of the DMK, Bollywood producer Karim Morani, businessman Shahid Balwa and former managing director of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group, Gautam Doshi, besides several others.
Here’s all you need to know:
The Case And A Raja’s Role
In 2008, airwaves were allocated to mobile services providers on a first-come-first-served basis. Raja, the then telecom minister, is accused of taking bribes to arbitrarily change norms several times to benefit select individuals and companies, overruling the advice of the regulator and the Prime Minister’s Office, according to the CBI’s chargesheet. He allegedly changed the cut-off date to apply for a licence and handed out spectrum at an entry fee charged in 2001.
The CBI pegged the loss to the exchequer at Rs 30,984 crore — the Comptroller and Auditor General had estimated the notional loss at Rs 1.76 lakh crore.
All the licences allotted during Raja’s tenure were ultimately cancelled by the Supreme Court in 2012. Raja was charged with cheating, forgery, criminal conspiracy and other provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act. He resigned as telecom minister in November 2010 and was sent to jail in February 2011 and released on bail 15 months later.
Kanimozhi, daughter of DMK leader M Karunanidhi, faced allegations about her ties to Kalaignar TV, which allegedly was a beneficiary of bribes in return of the 2G licenses granted to Swan Telecom Pvt. Ltd., promoted by Shahid Balwa and Vinod Goenka of DB Realty Ltd.
The CBI told the court in 2015 that Swan Telecom was used as a front and funding came from Anil Ambani’s Reliance ADAG to acquire licenses in 14 circles, according to a PTI report.
Three ADAG officials—Doshi, Surendra Piparia and Hari Nair—were named in the case.
Essar Teleholdings, Loop Telecom
Essar Teleholdings Ltd. is another company named in the case for allegedly funding Loop Telecom Pvt. Ltd. to acquire licences by using it as a front. Ravi Ruia and Anshuman Ruia from Essar Teleholdings and Kiran Khaitan and IP Khaitan from Loop Telecoms were accused of criminal conspiracy and cheating the Department of Telecommunications.
Others Named In The Chargesheet
- Unitech Wireless Ltd. and its former head Sanjay Chandra—managing director of real estate company Unitech Ltd. The telecom unit acquired the spectrum and then tied up with Norway’s Telenor for a telecom joint venture.
- Raja’s former private Secretary RK Chandolia.
- Former Telecom Secretary Siddartha Behrua.
- Sharad Kumar, managing director at Kalaignar TV.
- Asif Balwa and Rajeev Agarwal, both directors at Kusegaon Fruits and Vegetables Pvt. Ltd, a company accused of routing bribes to Balwa’s company.
Attorney General: Former Attorney General GE Vahanvati was called as a witness, first by a joint parliamentary committee looking into the 2G scam, and later by the CBI during the trial to inquire about his rose as the Solicitor General in framing the telecom policy.
Vahanvati denied participating in any “detailed discussions” on the licensing policy changes, saying that the press release which invited the applications in 2008 was not the one he had cleared and Raja had made changes to the version cleared by him, Indian Express reported quoting his testimony.
Anil Ambani: Reliance ADAG officials were accused of using Swan Telecom as a front to acquire 14 licences. Its promoter Anil Ambani denied any knowledge of it and was called as a prosecution witness to help the CBI’s case.