New Delhi: CBI on Thursday defended Home Minister P Chidamabaram in the Supreme Court in the 2G scam by blaming the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) for "jumping the gun" in spectrum allocation.
"The DoT jumped the gun," senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for CBI, submitted before a bench of justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly, while explaining how DoT did not want to go before the Telecom Commission on the issue of fixation of price for the spectrum.
He said Chidamabaram, who was then the Finance Minister, cannot be held responsible for the decision not to auction the radio waves as the Ministry of Finance was represented on the issue by the Finance Secretary during its meeting with the Ministry of Telecom then headed by A Raja.
While the meeting of the Telecom Commission was postponed from January 9 to January 15 in 2008, the DoT on January 10, 2008 issued 122 LoIs (Letter of Intents).
"DoT did not want the Commission to go into it. The base price of 2001 (for the spectrum) which was extended in 2003 continued. DoT jumped the gun," the senior advocate said.
He said Chidamabaram could not have taken the decision himself on the spectrum issue without consulting his subordinate officials, including the then Finance Secretary V Subba Rao, now the Governor of Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
"The Finance Secretary would equally be culpable if you(petitioners) are saying about the culpability of the then Finance Minister. Any one person cannot be held responsible," Venugopal said and asked the bench not to rely on the Finance Ministry note addressed to the PMO, which was placed by Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy before it yesterday.
"Please do not act on the report (note)," he said while asking the bench not to pass order on Swamy`s application.
To buttress his submission that neither there was a culpability on the part of the Ministry of Finance nor of the then Finance Minister, he contended that even the CAG, which has estimated a presumptive loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore, has "not pointed finger towards the Ministry of Finance".
"Anybody, who wants to condemn a person should not be allowed to produce any further documents," he said while opposing Swamy`s plea to direct CBI to probe Chidamabaram`s role in the 2G scam on the basis of documents provided by him for making him co-accused with Raja in the case.
"Please allow the system to continue as usual," Venugopal said in order to substantiate his contention that since the charge sheet in the case arising on the culpability of Raja has been filed, the apex court`s role to monitor the probe in connection with that case comes to an end.
He said the apex court can continue to monitor probe of other two cases about the alleged role of former union minister Dayanidhi Maran and the corporate house, Essar Group and Loop Telecom in the scam.
However, when Venugopal was making his submission, the bench asked some searching questions to him including whether the documents placed by Swamy were seized by the CBI or not during the investigations after the registration of FIR.
The court also wanted to know that the letters which came into existence during the pendency of the case formed the part of seizure or not.
Earlier, Swamy had alleged that CBI was determined to give a clean chit to Chidambaram who met with Raja four times between January 2008 and July 2008 on the issue of fixing the price of spectrum.
"CBI seems to be determined to give a clean chit to the then Finance Minister, who is now the Home Minister," Swamy said.
"Chidambaram was not a passive partner in price fixation but was actively involved in fixing prices for 2G spectrum along with Raja," Swamy had said while giving details of all the meeting between the two Ministers in 2008.
Swamy had yesterday filed March 25, 2011 office memorandum by the Finance Ministry headed by Pranab Mukherjee sent to the Prime Minister`s Office(PMO) which suggested that Chidambaram and Raja had jointly determined the price for the 2G spectrum in 2008.
The document said that Telecom Ministry could have gone in for auction of 2G spectrum licenses had the then Finance Minister on this.