2G: UPA exults as court clears Chidambaram’s name



2G: UPA exults as court clears Chidambaram’s name Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: In a major relief to Home Minister P Chidambaram and the UPA government, a Special CBI Court on Saturday dismissed a petition by Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy to make the former a co-accused in the 2G spectrum allocation scam case.

Special CBI Judge OP Saini pronounced the judgement in the presence of Swamy, his wife, his private secretary and one more counsel.

Reading out from the much-awaited judgement, Judge Saini said, "Your prayer to make Chidambaram an accused is dismissed."

The court said it will commence the hearing on the complaint filed by the petitioner, in which he had made further allegations against former telecom minister A Raja, from March 17.

Reacting to the verdict, Swamy expressed "dissatisfaction" saying the judge has made an "error" and he would challenge it in higher courts.

Swamy, in his plea, had alleged that Chidambaram was equally culpable like Raja as he also had a role in deciding the spectrum pricing and allowing telecom companies to off-load shares to foreign firms.

Swamy said the evidence brought on record prima facie established that Chidambaram was also culpable like Raja in the case.

While cancelling 122 licenses allotted controversially in 2008, the Supreme Court earlier this week left the matter regarding Chidambaram to be decided by the trial court. A bench of Justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly, which asked the lower court not to get influenced by its decision, had also refused to direct CBI to "investigate Chidambaram".

The apex court, which came down heavily on Raja, however, did not find any fault on the part of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and then finance minister Chidambaram.

Clean chit to Chidambaram

While throwing out the plea today, the Special CBI Court said that Chidambaram did not indulge in any criminal conspiracy or derived any pecuniary advantage in the decisions taken with Raja.

Giving a clean chit to the finance minister at the time of controversial allocation of 2G spectrum in 2008, Judge Saini 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".

Apart from being a matter of relief personally for Chidambaram, today's verdict is also the first good tidings for the UPA government that has been battered by a series of judicial pronouncements in the recent days in the 2G and other issues.

The Special Court said that in the absence of any other incriminating act on his (Chidambaram) part, it cannot be said that he was acting in pursuit of the criminal conspiracy.

"Accordingly, I do not find any sufficient ground for proceeding against P Chidambaram. The plea is without any merit and the same is dismissed," the judge said in his 64-page order.

The judge said there is no evidence on record to suggest that there was an agreement between Chidambaram and Raja to subvert telecom policy and obtain pecuniary advantage for himself or for any other person.

"There is no evidence of any substantive act being committed by him," the court said.

"A bit of evidence here and a bit there does not constitute prima facie evidence for showing prima facie existence of a criminal conspiracy. Anybody and everybody associated with a decision in any degree cannot be roped as an accused," the judge said.

‘PC didn’t act malafide’

The judge also sought to distinguish Chidambaram’s role from that of Raja.

The court said Chidambaram did not act in a malafide manner in the fixation of spectrum price at 2001 rate and in permitting the dilution of equity as alleged by Swamy.

"There is no material on record to show that P Chidambaram was acting malafide in fixing the price of spectrum at the 2001 level or in permitting dilution of equity by the two companies.

"These two acts are not per se illegal and there is no further material on record to show any other incriminating act on the part of P Chidambaram," the court said.

The judge dealt extensively with Swamy's complaint against Chidambaram that along with Raja, he deliberately fixed lower entry fees for the spectrum licenses and he was culpable along with Raja for allowing dilution of equities by Swan Telecom and Unitech Ltd to foreign firms.

"In a case of criminal conspiracy, the court has to see whether two persons are independently pursuing the same end or they are acting together in pursuit of an unlawful act. One may be acting innocently and other may be actuated by criminal intention. Innocuous, inadvertent or innocent acts do not make one party to the conspiracy," the court said.

It also referred to a Cabinet note of October 31, 2003 on a decision of spectrum pricing which said that Chidambaram had told Raja that there was no need to "revisit" the price, fixed in 2001.

"A decision taken by a public servant does not become criminal for simple reason that it has caused loss to the public exchequer or resulted in pecuniary advantage to others. Merely attending meetings and taking decisions therein is not a criminal act.

"It must have the taint of use of corrupt or illegal means or abuse of his official position by public servant for obtaining pecuniary advantage by him for himself or for any other person or obtaining of pecuniary advantage by him without any public interest," the court said.

It said Swamy could not bring evidence on record to show that Chidambaram was acting with "corrupt" and "illegal" motive and the case against him was distinguishable from other accused who are facing trial in the 2G case.

"I may add that there is such incriminating material against other accused persons, who stand charged and are facing trial," the court said.

It said that one cannot be made to face a criminal case merely because of the fact that he was part of the decision making process and there must something more than the participation.

"The role played by the decision maker, circumstances in which the decision was taken and the intention of the decision maker are the relevant facts. Intention is to be inferred from the facts and circumstances of the case. One cannot be held guilty merely by association with a decision and a decision by itself does not indicate criminality.

"There must be something more than mere association. Innocent and innocuous acts done in association with others do not make one a partner in crime, unless there is material to indicate otherwise, which is lacking in this case," it said.

(With PTI inputs)