2g Spectrum Case - Timeline and Final Judgment



2g Spectrum Case - Timeline and Final Judgment

Introduction

With the final judgment of the CBI Court on 21st December, 2017 to acquit all accused personnel due to absence of any solid dependable evidence with respect to the 2G Spectrum Case, it would seem that the biggest scam of India has amounted to nothing. It has been a long and tiring journey since 2008 when all the confusion originally began but after the latest judgment, the masses are inclined to opine that it was a completely useless journey. The 2G Spectrum case, which has consistently been in the news from time to time for the last ten years, is about the alleged unfair favouritism and undercharging for licensing of 2G Spectrum by the Government.

A Summary of Events

Some of the most important events are as follows :

  • The then Telecom Minister, A Raja, after taking office in May 2007, sold licenses/2G spectrum, a scarce national resource, to a handful of arbitrarily selected (120 out of 575) companies in January 2008 at a bargain basement 2001 price, thus causing huge losses of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the Government.
  • In September 2007, first an extremely close cut off date was set as October 1, to file applications for the licences, which stopped legitimate applicants from being able to apply in time.
  • The 'first come first serve' principle laid down was not followed while favouring and cherry picking certain particular applicants even if they applied last.
  • In November 2007, the letters, directions and suggestions from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the Law Ministry, the Prime Minister, Department of Telecommunications and Finance Secretary to not implement the 'first come first serve' at 2001 prices and requests to conduct proper auctions were blatantly ignored.
  • Rollout obligations were modified without consulting TRAI and another relaxation was given to the new entrants which had never been done before in the past 14 years since the first licence.
  • Later in January 2008, the cut off date was illegally brought forward to 25th September, which was in complete violation of the TRAI Act even though the 'no cap' recommendations were apparently accepted.
  • In July 2009, an appeal by S Tel, single bench of Delhi High Court held that the preponing of the cut off date after the applications had already been made was illegal and the judgement was upheld by a double bench in Delhi High Court which was again upheld by the Supreme Court in March 2010 when the matter escalated to the apex court and hence it stood quashed.
  • The private applicants were illegally allowed to make immense amount of money by conducting private auctions and selling equity and allowing them to complete deals with other telecom companies for the 2G Spectrum.
  • Exorbitant losses were caused to the Exchequer under the facade of public benefit and lower prices.
  • In November 2010, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) submits a report on 2G spectrum to the government, stating a loss of ₹1.76 lakh crore (US$27 billion) to the exchequer.
  • In February 2011, the people involved in the scam including A. Raja arrested and trial held under special Central Bureau of investigation (CBI Court after denying bail to all.
  • In February 2012, the Supreme Court cancelled all the 122 licences awarded in 2008, ruling that these licences and subsequently, all natural resources should be allocated through auctions/a fair bidding process alone.
  • In December, 2017, a special Central Bureau of investigation (CBI court acquitted all involved in the 2G scam for lack of any substantial evidence after 10 years.

The Final Judgment

The Final Judgment held by Judge OP Saini of the special CBI Court on the 2G Spectrum scam case has left all the people expecting justice disappointed and bitter. It is probably one more sour example of the Court being powerless to convict the guilty inspite of probably knowing the truth, of CBI being too sluggish and inefficient in its investigation and yet another example of politicians getting away with corruption, that too the biggest case till date. As disappointing as the outcome has been, it wouldn't be fair to blame the court for it's judgment as it has it's own limits.

Here's all about the CBI Court's final judgment :

  1. There were five offences filed by the CBI - the cut-off date, violations of the first come, first served policy, dual technology approvals and spectrum allocation, eligibility of companies, and cheating the government exchequer by non-revision of the entry fee;
  2. There were a total of 35 accused parties, including several companies, who were all acquitted at the end of the trial;
  3. According to the Court judgement, the Court believes that there was no scam and facts were arranged to make it seem like a scam;
  4. The Court held that the policy decisions of the Department of Telecom (DoT are disorderlyambiguous and scattered all over files are hence difficult to track or understand. This, according to the Court, makes it difficult for outside agencies to understand the policies and leaves loopholes for controversies;
  5. The Court was exceptionally disappointed in the CBI investigation and said that even though it started with quite a bit of enthusiasm, towards the end, it became entirely directionless;
  6. The Court openly held that the CBI prosecution had miserably failed to prove any of the charges against the accused;
  7. The Court also didn't appreciate the fact that during the final phase of the trial, no prosecutor or senior officer was ready to sign the documents which had to ultimately be signed by an inspector of the agency;
  8. It was further noted that the prosecution didn't file any written submissions even though it said it would and continued to submit oral submissions for months until the defence did the same, which was held to be highly unfair;
  9. The basic inference is simply that the investigation agencies have failed to prove any of the charges against the accused and hence the accused have been allowed to go scot-free.
  10. The CBI is likely to appeal against the decision of the Special Court in the Delhi High Court as it is dissatisfied with the judgement.

Conclusion

This case is similar to a chain of recent cases which have been apparent proof of the inefficiency and incapacity of Premier investigating agencies like the CBI. Such instances not only mar the international reputation of the country for international investors what with the Supreme Court cancelling all the licences but now, with this verdict, it is to be expected that a lot of companies will soon be suing the Government for compensation. Videocon Telecommunications is already planning to sue the Government for compensation worth Rs 10000 crore due to losses suffered by it due to amount paid by it to take the licence and the business loans taken by it on account of this licence. Hence, this judgment is bound to create havoc in the near future. But it is also important to remember that "It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer", which is indisputably the principle which shackled the Court and stopped it from passing any judgement without strong evidence even if the truth was otherwise obvious.

(Disclaimer:  The information provided in this article is given only to provide helpful information and understanding on the subject/topic of law discussed. The contents of this article are not the views of Amie Legal and  Amie Legal does not take any responsibility or liability for the opinions expressed by the Author herein.)

2G Spectrum case
Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG)
Department of Telecommunications and Finance
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)
the Law Ministry

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