Shock verdict in 2G trial shows how easy it is to get away with crime in India
Nobody high-profile with access to crack legal teams, it appears, commits a crime in India. So, even in a case where illegality has been established by no less than the Supreme Court which cancelled 122 2G Spectrum allocations dating to 2007- 08 in February 2012 holding them to be arbitrary and illegal thus establishing a scam of massive proportions, the trial court of Judge OP Saini held that the prosecution has failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that those suspected, prima facie, of being the beneficiaries of the scam were indeed guilty. While some of the comments by the learned Judge appear to be virtue Signalling, the fact that he highlighted a weak prosecution is a damning indictment of the Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate and their legal teams. Those who witnessed and saw what happened in Sanchar Bhawan back in 2008, where the ‘First Come, First Served’ system was abused, application dates back dated and changed, and the common resources of every citizen of India sold for a song know that a massive scam took place as was validated by the apex court in its decision to cancel the licences. The trial court verdict appears to be similar to that delivered by a trial court when it appeared that nobody killed Jessica Lall, though there was a body to prove that she was dead.
The fact is that an immense amount of wrongdoing took place and while the Supreme Court has ensured that the benefits of that wrongdoing have been taken away, the trial court order means nobody has, as yet, been held guilty for committing the crime. Naturally, the verdict gives a huge talking point to the Congress which was rightly pilloried for allowing this loot of public resources and the DMK, whose minister A Raja was in charge of the telecom ministry when the scam went down. The daughter of party patriarch Kanimozhi too stood trial and was pronounced not guilty along with many others including executives from Anil Ambani’s Reliance Telecommunications, Sanjay Chandra of Unitech and Bollywood producer Shahid Balwa. Judge Saini’s stinging rebuke to the prosecution makes it appear that the prosecution and by association, the Government of the Union of India, were not serious about ensuring convictions in the case. A swift and well thought out appeal is essential for the Government to prove its bonafides.
It is a tragedy that in India being a prosecuting lawyer is not considered a big deal. In the United States, being appointed a Federal prosecutor and doing your job well is a ticket to the expressway of a political career; in India, unfortunately, prosecutors face all sorts of pressures from the government of the day. There is no doubt that this case was scuttled by an obviously clumsy prosecution. The Quantum of loss to the public exchequer is up for debate, and the notional loss figure made public by the then Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Vinod Rai can be argued with, but there can be no argument that the system was abused and India’s natural resources were scammed. It is a result of the 2G scam that today Spectrum in India auctioned following proper laid down processes. Indeed, the loss of discretionary powers of the Executive branch of Government as a result of the 2G and Coal scams, which made the entire process more transparent, is a most welcome legacy. It remains to be seen how the CBI and ED pursue the case from now on and how Quickly the Indian judiciary responds. For, we are still talking about 2G as operators get ready to deploy 5G technologies next year and one wonders whether this case will hang fire till the time we are speaking of 10G networks and 2G networks are but a distant memory.