Sunday, April 28, 2013

Denied hearing, Raja figures 27 times in JPC report

NEW DELHI, April 28, 2013

A closer reading of the draft JPC report on the 2G scandal reveals that ex-Telecom Minister, A Raja has been named 27 times — in addition to several indirect references —in the crucial Chapter X 'Observations/Recommendations' alone.

According to Mr. Raja, the report violates the basic principles of natural justice by condemning him without providing him an opportunity to defend himself. JPC chairman and Congressman P.C. Chacko has refused to allow the former telecom minister's testimony on the plea that doing so would also require other ministers to appear, for which the JPC, set up in February 2011, has run out of time.

The most important evidence that Mr. Raja sought to provide to the JPC relates to the fact that he was not alone in taking decisions for which he has been accused and is being prosecuted in the special CBI court.

In a recent 106-page submission to the JPC, Mr. Raja has claimed that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had agreed with his actions, all of which were conveyed to him well ahead of the issuance of Letters of Intent (LoIs) towards 2G spectrum on January 10, 2008.

In the draft report, Mr. Raja is mentioned on at least 27 occasions by his title — "Minister of Communications & Information Technology" — with several allegations against him, resulting in adverse observations and pronouncement of wrongdoing. Condemning his decision to advance the cut-off date, the report states that it does "not appear to be fair".

Describing it as a "procedural infirmity", the report concludes that, "it cast [a] cascading shadow on the decision-making process of the administrative ministry, which is highly deplorable". Mr. Raja's dealings with the PM in his letters of November 2, and December 26, 2007, attract the maximum adverse comments in the report, including that "the Committee are inclined to conclude that the PM was misled about the procedure that was to be followed by the Department of Telecommunications with respect to the issuance of licences".

The facts, as described in the report, however, show that Mr. Raja had accurately conveyed the changes that he proposed in the existing first-come-first-served (FCFS) policy and later carried out his actions to the letter.

While the report claims that the PM was "misled", it provides contrary evidence on pages 43-44.

Mr. Raja's defence of his position has been recorded in a solitary case relating to the allegation of him fraudulently amending the last paragraph of the controversial January 10, 2008 press release and overwriting the words "press release appd [sic] as amended". Including merely 8 lines from Mr. Raja's detailed defence, the draft report quotes the former telecom minister as stating: "My note was written prior to the file being sent to the Solicitor General and nothing was inserted after the file came back from him". The draft JPC report records this without pronouncing any judgment.

In the draft report, Mr. Raja and his officials are also blamed for allowing 85 ineligible applicants, as per the CAG, to fraudulently get licences and spectrum, even as the DoT "did not have any mechanism to detect such lapses on their own".

This is just one of several conclusions that are factually incorrect, since the DoT officials under Mr. Raja had rejected 110 applications out of the 232 that applied before September 25, 2007, using the same parameters that the CAG used to disqualify the additional 85. Essentially, Mr. Raja and the DoT, were not only aware of the mechanism, but had actually used it to discriminate between companies that they wanted to favour and those they wanted to reject.
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