|Bail can't make 2G fail|
|Written by sunil jain|
|Thursday, 24 November 2011 00:00|
Bail can't make 2G fail
CBI case will now be tested on its intrinsic merit
The fact that former telecom minister Sukh Ram has just been convicted for a scam he was accused of way back in 1996 is a grim reminder of what happens if courts don’t adopt a liberal policy towards bail. Which is why it is a good thing the Supreme Court granted bail to five corporate executives—Swan Telecom director Vinod Goenka, Unitech’s Sanjay Chandra and three officials of Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group. These officials were taken into judicial custody on April 20 and have already spent seven months in jail. In the initial months, CBI opposed the bail pleas saying the charges were still to be framed. Well, those have been framed now. After this, CBI continued to oppose their bail plea on the ground that the concerned individuals could influence witnesses. Well, the witnesses have been given protection and, in any case, the accused don’t need to be out of jail to influence witnesses, do they?
CBI’s real test begins now since it is obvious that keeping the executives in jail didn’t really help it get any more confessions—indeed, it is likely that bail for the other accused may also follow. CBI has done well to get details of the cash trail from Balwa’s firm to Kalaignar TV but, as has been pointed out before, there are many gaps in the chargesheets. Indeed, CBI’s latest escapade—filing FIRs against Bharti Airtel and Vodafone—is shocking since, even if there was a conspiracy hatched by the late Pramod Mahajan, there has been no case against telcos who got a lot more valuable spectrum (BSNL and MTNL) or against UPA ministers who, even before Raja, gave out a lot more spectrum free than NDA ones. Similarly, CBI has cleared Datacom of benefiting from Raja’s changed first-come first-served norms while charging Swan and Unitech Wireless for this; and the dual-technology licences haven’t even been probed. In any case, since all of Raja’s actions were approved of by the Solicitor General, CBI’s big challenge will be to prove that Raja distorted the Solicitor General’s clearance, a point the accused will work hard to prove is incorrect. The law ministry’s definition of ‘associate’ firms is certain to help both Swan and Loop, and Trai’s changed stance—its latest stance is: no, we never advocated auctions or even indexing of telecom licence prices—will also hit CBI’s case. But here’s the problem: CBI can get over Trai’s somersaults by citing the sections of Trai Act that Raja violated (on M&A, on dual-technology and on rollout obligations), but it hasn’t even mentioned them in its chargesheets.