Supreme Court on Wednesday continued its critical observations on the 2G spectrum scam, taking exception to how the telecom ministry under A Raja had overlooked concerns raised by the prime minister on the allocation issue.
It also caught on to the fact that prospective licensees were given only 45 minutes to get all their documents in order, saying this did not indicate a transparent procedure was followed.
“The prime minister (Manmohan Singh) had made his reservations clear, but these were not treated with respect. There are requirements of collective responsibility. The government is not like a private business house. Its action has to be reasonable and in public interest,” a bench comprising justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly said.
“Bypassing the prime minister was not proper. The reservations were entitled to the highest respect.”
On another aspect of the case, the court ordered that the original tapes of conversations between corporate lobbyist Niira Radia and industrialists, politicians and journalists be handed over to it for safekeeping. The government did not object to it.
The day also saw Raja attack the comptroller and auditor general’s report, which indicts him, as “speculative and subjective”.
However, the court disagreed, telling his counsel “the CAG report makes a prima facie case for investigation against the former telecom minister”.
Asking solicitor general Gopal Subramanium some probing questions on the spectrum allocation, the bench wondered why prospective licensees were given only 45 minutes to submit complete all formalities in January 2008.
The CAG report says some applicants were given an unfair advantage, exposed by the fact that they were ready with bank guarantees and demand drafts drawn prior to the date of notification of the cut-off.
When Subramanium argued that a press release was issued, the bench retorted: “Making a press release doesn’t make it transparent. When companies are required to bring all documents with their rubber stamps on it… and you give just 45 minutes… by which standard is it transparent? Was it communicated through telepathy?”
“The fact is that all 16 companies turned up and no one complained. Can you call it a process consistent with rule of law? Would you consider this a reasonable way of functioning by the government department,” it asked, to which the solicitor general replied: “There needs to be a more transparent procedure.”