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SC gives clean chit to Chidambaram in 2G case

PTI 23 Sep 2012, 16:39:54 IST
New Delhi, Aug 24:  Finance Minister P Chidambaram today got a huge relief from the Supreme Court which cleared him of all charges in the 2G spectrum allocation scam, giving a quietus to attempts by Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy to make him an accused in the case. 

In a judgement that also came as a relief for the govenrment in its current troubled times, the court dismissed the plea for a CBI inquiry against Chidambaram saying that there was no material to establish that he abused his official position as the then Finance Minister.

Nor had he conspired or colluded with former Telecom Minister A Raja to obtain any pecuniary advantage for himself or any other persons, it held.

A bench of justices G S Singhvi and K S Radhakrishnan said there was no prima facie material to suggest that Chidambaram deliberately allowed dilution of equity of the two companies, i.e. Swan Telecom Pvt and Unitech Ltd, which are chargesheeted in the case.

While Chidambaram refused to comment on the verdict, Swamy complained it was a bad judgement and that he would file a review petition.

Congress party and several ministers hailed the judgement saying it had vindicated the position of Chidambaram and the government but Opposition parties said still the government was politically and morally accountable for the 2G scam.  However, while absolving Chidambaram of criminal culpability in spectrum allocation and pricing, the bench observed that “poor management” and “inaccurate decision” by itself cannot be said to be a product of criminal conspiracy. 

The court passed the order on petitions filed by Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy and an NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) challenging the February 4 judgement of the Special CBI Court giving clean chit to Chidambaram in the 2G spectrum scam. 

Today's order of the Supreme Court puts the stamp of approval on the Feb 4 judgement of the Special CBI Judge O P Saini, who had held that Chidambaram had not indulged in any criminal conspiracy or derived any pecuniary advantage in the decisions taken withRaja.

“We are, therefore, of the considered opinion that no case is made out to interfere with the February 4 order passed by Special Judge CBI or to grant reliefs prayed for in the application and Special Leave Petition is, therefore, not entertained, and they are accordingly stand rejected,” the apex court bench said in its 59-page judgement. 

After going through the records, the bench said that Chidambaram cannot be indicted for criminal conspiracy in the scam because of his meetings with main accused Raja and DoT officials over the issue of price fixation for 2G spectrum. 

“Criminal conspiracy cannot be inferred on the mere fact that there were official discussions between the officers of the MoF and that of DoT and between two Ministers, which are all recorded.

“Suspicion, however, strong, cannot take the place of legal proof and the meeting between Chidambaram and Raja would not by itself be sufficient to infer the existence of a criminal conspiracy so as to indict him,” the bench said.  The bench went through the documents and submissions and concluded that Chidambaram did not abuse his official position or procured any financial benefits.

“We are of the considered view that material on record do not show that P Chidambaram had abused his position as a Finance Minister or conspired or colluded with A Raja so as to fix low entry fee by non-visiting spectrum charges fixed in the year 2001.

“No material is made available even for a prima facie conclusion that Chidambaram had deliberately allowed dilution of equity of the two companies, i.e. Swan and Unitech. 

“No material is also available even prima facie to conclude that Chidambaram had abused his official position, or used any corrupt or illegal means for obtaining any pecuniary advantage for himself or any other persons, including Raja,” the bench said.

It dismissed the contention of Swamy that Chidambaram should be indicted as he failed to intervene in the allocation of spectrum which could have prevented the multi-crore scam.  “Petitioners submit that had the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister intervened, this situation could have been avoided—might be or might not be.

“A wrong judgment or an inaccurate or incorrect approach or poor management by itself, even after due deliberations between Ministers or even with Prime Minister, by itself cannot be said to be a product of criminal conspiracy,” the bench said.

It noted that Chidambaram had no role in the exchange of communication or the expression of opinions of the decisions taken between Raja and the Prime Minister's Office, a situation created by Raja and the officials of DoT. 

Giving a clean chit to the finance minister in the allocation of 2G spectrum in 2008, Saini had said Chidambaram was party to only two decisions—keeping spectrum prices at 2001 level and dilution of equity by two companies—which “ are not per se criminal”.