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Raja's letter to PM not based on discussion with me: AG

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 20:53

New Delhi: Attorney General G E Vahanvati on Wednesday told a Delhi court that former Telecom Minister A Raja's letter to the Prime Minister regarding the DoT's policy to be adopted for 2G spectrum allocation was not based on discussion with him and the then External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

He said the contents of Raja's December 26, 2007 letter to the PM regarding discussion with him as the then Solicitor General and Mukherjee on the policy were "not correct".

"It is wrong to suggest that what was communicated to the Prime Minister as future course of action was based on the discussion with the then Minister for External Affairs (Mukherjee) and me.

"The contents of this letter to the effect that 'the discussions with the Minister for External Affairs and Solicitor General of India have further enlightened me to take further preemptive and proactive decisions on these issues' are not correct," Vahanvati, who was deposing as a witness in the 2G spectrum case, told Special Judge O P Saini during his cross examination by Raja's counsel Sushil Kumar.

On being shown an annexure appended to the letter by Special Public Prosecutor U U Lalit, Vahanvati clarified that the issues mentioned in it were not discussed in the meeting in the first week of December 2007 with Mukherjee.

"I wish to clarify that the issues mentioned in the annexure to this letter were not discussed with the then Minister for External Affairs during the meeting as referred to by me above. I also wish to add that what is being referred to in this annexure as being concurred by me had not been concurred by me," he said.

Vahanvati's statement assumes significance as the CBI, in its charge sheet, had alleged that Raja had written the letter to the PM on December 26, 2007 and had "intentionally and deliberately misrepresented the facts about first-come-first serve policy..."

Vahanvati, whose recording of statement would continue tomorrow, also told the court that he was "not aware of this letter as it is a letter written by the then Minister (Raja) directly to the Prime Minister. On December 26, 2007, I was not even in Delhi."

He said the meeting between him, Raja and Mukherjee had taken place as the then External Affairs Minister was the chairman of Group of Ministers looking into the issue relating to spectrum.

He said he had given a note to Mukherjee and indicated that pending applications for 2G licences would be disposed of and licences would be issued on first-come first-serve (FCFS) basis.

Vahanvati said Mukherjee had asked some questions and gone through his note carefully and there was no further discussion.

On being shown a January 7, 2008 note prepared by him, the AG said the then Telecom Secretary Siddharth Behura, also a co-accused in the case, had come to him at his residence to inquire whether there was any stay granted by any court with regard to the issue of new licences.

"I told him (Behura) that there was no stay. He asked me if I could confirm this. He came to my camp office at my house with the file. I confirmed to him that there was no stay.

"He then showed me a draft of a press release and in relation to this draft, I said that what was proposed was fair and made for transparency. I recorded this in my note...," he said.

"Before recording this note, I had glanced through the previous pages of the file...I do not recollect having seen the last sentence, that is, 'press release appd. As amended', he said adding "the press release referred to in my note ... was the draft press release in unaltered form, which was shown to me".

Vahanvati said Raja had already approved the press release and asked for his opinion.

"It is wrong to suggest that the Minister did not ask my opinion on the press release. It is correct that the Minister had already approved the press release. Nevertheless, he asked for my opinion," he said.

"It is wrong to suggest that my opinion was not sought on the press release. It is wrong to suggest that my opinion was sought through this file on the proposed course of action to be taken by the DoT," the AG said.

He denied that when the press release was shown to him on January 7, 2008, its last paragraph had already been cut off.

On being shown the cut-off portion of the press release, he said "my note in para 4 clearly refers to the first-come first-served policy for issuance of licences and not LoIs. When a person is issued an LoI, he must be given reasonable time to comply with the conditions of LoIs.

"This would therefore, mean that if there is compliance on the same date between different holders of LoIs, the inter se seniority has to be decided on the basis of the date of application," he said.

Vahanvati also rejected Raja's suggestion that the policy and the procedures for issuance of new Unified Access Services licences were formulated by DoT after discussion with him.

The CBI, in its charge sheet, has alleged Raja, in conspiracy with Behura, had "fraudulently portrayed" to DoT that the amended draft of the press release regarding issuance of letters of intents (LoIs) to the telecom firms had the consent of the then Solicitor General Vahanvati.

The CBI had also alleged the amendment in the press release "led to redefining the concept of the first-come-first-serve on the basis of priority in submission of compliance of the LoI against the established practice of priority in order of receipt of application".

Dealing with the violations of the first-come-first-serve (FCFS) basis policy, the CBI had alleged in its charge sheet that "the distribution of LoIs was not in FCFS manner and the wilful design of such distribution resulted into disorderly manner of priority."


First Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 20:53
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