New Delhi: Hearings into the second-generation (2G) spectrum allocation scam followed a familiar pattern on Friday, with the accused deflecting blame by naming others.
R.K. Chandolia’s lawyer Vijay Agarwal told the special court hearing the 2G case that as former personal secretary to ex telecom minister Raja, he was in any case too low down in the pecking order to be capable of taking the actions the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has accused him of taking. He said other members of Raja’s staff, including Aseervatham Achary (then additional private secretary to Raja), were in greater positions of power. Achary had been working with Raja since October 1999, Chandolia was only assigned to him in 2005, Agarwal said.
He also alleged in court that Achary acted as a conduit between Raja and corporate lobbyist Niira Radia when the former minister was looking to include Kalaignar TV’s bouquet of channels in the Tata Sky DTH (direct-to-home) platform.
“Going by this, Tata, Radia, Achary and Kalaignar TV all should be made accused in the case. Tata and Radia are big people and CBI cannot touch them, but why not Achary,” Agarwal said on Chandolia’s behalf. “Deals are being struck between Radia and Tata through Achary, who is a conduit... Why are they not in jail when I am in jail even when I have no involvement in the matter?”
Chandolia’s statements follow those by Raja in which the former minister told the court that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and then finance minister P. Chidambaram were aware of his decisions relating to spectrum allocation in 2008. Raja’s lawyer also said his decisions had the approval of attorney general Goolam E. Vahanvati, then solicitor general.
Former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura said during his defence that several officials, including then finance secretary and current central bank governor D. Subbarao, should be named co-accused for having approved policies he executed.
Chandolia’s counsel accused CBI of carrying out a discriminatory investigation, purposely avoiding the indictment of certain senior officers who had the power to take decisions and had put up the notes that Chandolia has been accused of.
Chandolia, who was later promoted to economic adviser in the department of telecommunications (DoT), said that as part of duties as personal secretary to the minister, he took dictation and drafted letters according to Raja’s directions and had no say in policy decisions or other matters within DoT. Chandolia challenged CBI to produce documents on which he has signed.
“I was his (Raja’s) sophisticated helper. I am only an extra assisting hand to carry out instructions of my master. Can I question my master? How can an assisting staff be roped in by the CBI?” he asked.
On the accusation that Chandolia assisted Unitech Wireless Ltd in the advancement of the cut-off date for the submission of licence applications to 25 September 2007 from 1 October that year, his counsel argued that it didn’t make sense. Unitech submitted all its applications for telecom licences by 24 September 2007, the change had no effect. Only Shyam Telelink, which submitted its applications on 25 September, would have been helped. Shyam Telelink (now called Sistema Shyam TeleServices Ltd) declined to comment on the accusation.
Chandolia also brought into focus the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) order of July 2009 that upheld the allocation of licences and spectrum in January 2008, which was the main focus of the CBI investigation. If a tribunal, with specific expertise in the matter, has already decided on the matter, “there is nothing left for this court to do”, Chandolia’s counsel argued. “The TDSAT judgement is binding on this court as well,” he added.
Agarwal also represents Shahid Balwa, the promoter of DB Realty, who is likely to open his defence next week.