Raja, 2 others remanded; charges serious: judge


New Delhi: As former Telecom Minister A. Raja, his former Personal Secretary R. K. Chandolia and ex-Telecom Secretary Siddhartha Behura were ordered by a Delhi Court on February 3 to remain in CBI custody for the next five days, CBI officials appear set to sharpen their line of questioning to elicit more information on various aspects relating to alleged irregularities and violation of guidelines in the grant of licenses and allocation of 2G spectrum during 2008.

The CBI has so far questioned the accused persons, asking them why allotment of licenses was done in a hasty and improper manner. Sources said the agency has been able to establish that telecom firms like Swan Telecom and Unitech were given licenses by ignoring terms and conditions. These firms later benefited to the tune of several hundred crore of rupees by selling their stakes to various other global firms.

Swan had offloaded its shares to UAE-based Etisalat, while Unitech offloaded its majority shares to Norway-based Telenor.

With the probe into 2G spectrum scam picking up only in the past two months, when the Supreme Court turned the heat on the CBI, the agency will now have to work overtime to tie up all loose ends. The sources said that on several aspects  Raja had been rather “evasive’’ and the CBI would need to establish that procedural guidelines were violated by the accused who abused their official position in award of licenses during 2008.

After taking charge as Minister of Communications and IT in May 2007,  Raja wanted to grant licenses as  per “first-come-first served’’ method and continue with old pricing of spectrum reached in 2001. It was reportedly opposed by the then Telecom Secretary D. S. Mathur and Member (Finance) Manju Madhavan of DoT.

The Delhi Court, while allowing the CBI to interrogate  Raja, said the charges of loss of Rs. 22,000 crore in award of the 2G spectrum licences to some companies by his decisions “are very serious.”

The 47-year-old DMK leader, former Telecom Secretary Siddharth Behura and his former Personal Secretary R. K. Chandolia, were produced around 2:00 p.m. in the packed courtroom amid tight security cover, a day after their arrest.

Opposing the CBI’s plea,  Raja’s counsel Ramesh Gupta said that he was innocent as all the decisions with regard to granting of the UAS licenses had the approval of the Union Cabinet and various statutory panels.

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