Ourview | 2G case: a definitional problem

Ourview | 2G case: a definitional problem

By now, charges should have been framed against the accused in the so-called 2G scam, the allotment of spectrum to telcos in 2008 that has been under a cloud ever since the process began in 2007.

They haven’t.

Instead, defence lawyers have spent the time arguing afresh about several things, including a note from the law ministry to the Central Bureau of Investigations.

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News Report

2G court allows law ministry opinion on ‘associate’

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That note, thanks to a Monday announcement by the special court hearing the case, will now be placed on record.

And the defence will now offer more arguments, some of which will be based on that note. At best, this could mean a further delay in the framing of charges. At worst, it could mean a weaker case for the prosecution.

The note from the law ministry had to do with associate companies, and it essentially said that Swan Telecom (now Etisalat DB Teleservices India Pvt Ltd) and Loop Telecom cannot be considered associate companies of the Reliance Anil D Ambani group and the Essar group. The Central Bureau of Investigation believes that Swan was a front for Reliance and has arrested three senior Reliance executives over their involvement in the scam, and it was pursuing investigations into whether Loop was a front for Essar. Both Essar and Reliance already have a significant presence (had, at the time of the issue of spectrum and until recently, in Essar’s case) in telecom and an application for spectrum by an associate would have violated rules instituted by the telecom ministry.

The telecom ministry had, as reported by Mint last week, sought the then solicitor general’s view on this in February but he had refused to give one, on the grounds that the case was before the courts. It isn’t clear what prompted the law ministry to give a fresh opinion in August.

Now that the opinion has been placed on record by the court , there is no point getting into whether the law ministry is in some confusion over the distinction between associates and subsidiaries.

Interestingly, India’s Ministry of Corporate Affairs too had previously said pretty much what the law ministry has.

Which could mean one of two things: one, that this particular charge and line of investigation by CBI isn’t going to lead anywhere or result in charges that will stick; two, that the government continues to be in damage control mode over the scam and continues to stick to its unstated line that the irregularities, if any, have to do with the individual venality of a minister and his cohorts and cannot be seen as a sign of government failure.

To be sure, there are other accusations, allegations, and charges and not all of these have to do with definitions. CBI may have better luck with those.

Is CBI on a weak wicket? Tell us at views@livemint.com