New Delhi , December 21 (NDTV):A court in New Delhi on Thursday acquitted former Indian Telecom Minister A Raja and M Kanimozhi of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and 15 others of charges in what was described as India’s biggest telecom scandal, the “2G scam”.
The judge said investigators could not prove that Raja, along with officials from companies that won the licenses for telecom services, had conspired to receive kickbacks from the sale of phone permits, causing a loss of Rs. 1.76 lakh crore (US$ 27 billion) to the government.
The case became the centerpiece of allegations of egregious corruption on then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s watch.
But as the Congress called it a vindication of their government, the ruling BJP has pointed out that the Supreme Court had accepted that there was corruption and cancelled all 122 licenses handed out by Raja.
Reading out the operative part, the judge said: “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.”
Raja, who had defended himself in court and cross-examined all the witnesses, was in tears. So were his family members. The former minister spent nearly one year in prison after his arrest in 2011.
Kanimozhi, the daughter of DMK chief M Karunanidhi, told NDTV: “Justice has prevailed.”
The “2G” trial began in 2011, a year after the national auditor said in its report that there had been massive irregularities in the allocation of second generation or 2G licences when Raja was minister. The auditor said licenses were given to telecom operators in 2007-2008 at throwaway prices without a free and fair bidding process.
Top Congress leaders called the verdict a vindication of the party-led government. “Our zero loss theory on 2G spectrum allocation has been vindicated,” said former minister Kapil Sibal.
Named along with Raja were big time telecom operators including the Ambanis.
The CBI had alleged that a Rs.2000 million (US$ 31 million) bribe paid by a telecom operator to Raja was deposited in a TV channel in Chennai that is owned in part by Kanimozhi, the daughter of DMK chief M Karunanidhi.
Last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited M Karunanidhi at his home in Chennai in a surprise move. The timing was crucial. Political parties have been speculating whether the house call was intende The DMK is not a pariah for the BJP, which has been exploring avenues to expand its slim presence in Tamil Nadu.
The 2G scam was among the major corruption scandals that came to light during the second term of Dr Manmohan Singh’s coalition government.
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.2000 million in a media empire owned by the minister’s brother.
(The featured image at the top shows former Indian Telecom Minister A.Raja garlanding former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh)