|Dial another delay|
|Tuesday, 11 October 2011 00:00|
Given that it took the CBI 14 months to even question former telecom minister A Raja after registering an FIR in the 2G matter, taking so long to raid Raja’s predecessor Dayanidhi Maran’s premises is perhaps par for the course for the CBI. Except, in Maran’s case, a government committee headed by Justice Shivraj Patil highlighted Maran’s role in delaying licences to C Sivasankaran’s Aircel/Dishnet way back in January this year—all of which makes the CBI’s delay in, first questioning, and then raiding his premises for more information, quite inexplicable. After all, if there were any incriminating papers to be found, surely a smart Maran would have got rid of them given the long advance notice? According to Patil, while Arun Shourie took 45 days to clear 7 of the 10 licences Dishnet applied for when he was the minister in early 2004, Maran took between 9 and 34 months to clear the other applications Dishnet made after he had taken over—all 14 licences cleared by Maran were issued in December 2006 and, a few months later, Maxis group firm invested R600 crore in Sun Direct. Interestingly, Patil also chronicled the change in the ministry’s attitude by December 2006. Till then, Dishnet/Aircel’s applications were put on the backburner by raising irrelevant queries; in December, both Airtel and Aircel were in queue to get extra spectrum—Bharti, which was first in the queue, was asked for some more information, but before this could be provided, Aircel was given the spectrum!
Indeed, Patil also highlighted the role of then telecom secretaries who went along with Maran without even the slightest protest. When all hell broke loose after Sivasankaran alleged Maran’s delays are what forced him to sell his stake in Aircel to Maxis of Malaysia (which later invested R600 crore in Maran’s brother’s Sun Direct), one of the former telecom secretaries defended his actions saying he merely complied with the then minister’s wishes!
The CBI’s track record in investigating the case has been quite poor so far, and that is why the Supreme Court has been petitioned to put in place a committee to monitor the progress of the investigation. Apart from its inability to find more money trails, as has been pointed out earlier, CBI has dual standards—it has cleared Datacom of jumping the queue for spectrum while accusing Swan and Unitech Wireless of the same—and has not even begun to probe the allocation of spectrum to ‘dual-technology’ firms. The Maran case has only strengthened the demand for a monitoring committee.