India’s Chidambaram cleared in 2G spectrum case

The World

A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court exonnerated former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram Saturday, ruling that there was no evidence of “criminal conspiracy” or “malafide” intent in his assocation with the allotment of licenses in the so-called 2G telecom spectrum scam.

The ruling comes after the Supreme Court declined to accept opposition lawmaker Subramanian Swamy's request that it instruct the CBI to launch a probe into Chidambaram's involvement in the scandal.

Subsequently, Swamy had approached the CBI court with a plea that it summon Chidambaram as an accused in the 2G spectrum case, alleging that the former finance minister conspired with then-telecom minister A. Raja to fix the cost of licenses at 2001 levels and he allowed two Indian firms to effectively resell their licenses to foreign companies before launching their networks.

The CBI court rejected the claim that Chidambaram did anything against the law in its ruling Saturday, according to India's Hindu newspaper.

“In the end, Mr. Chidambaram was party to only two decisions — that is, keeping the spectrum prices at [the] 2001 level and dilution of equity by the two companies,” the paper quotes Special Judge O.P. Saini as saying. “These two acts are not per se criminal [acts]. In the absence of any other incriminating act on his part, it cannot be said that he was prima facie party to the criminal conspiracy. There is no evidence on record that he was acting in pursuit of the criminal conspiracy, while being party to the two decisions. Accordingly, I do not find any sufficient ground for proceeding against Mr. Chidambaram. The plea is without any merit, and the same is dismissed.”

Raja, the main accused in the 2G case, hails from one of the Congress Party's coalition partners in the United Progressive Alliance. But Chidambaram, who is now home minister, is one of most important figures in the Congress itself, and the accusations that he was complicit in the alleged improprieties had also blackened the reputation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Naturally, therefore, the Congress hailed the CBI court's ruling and asserted that the claims of his involvement were politically motivated. However, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said that it would continue to pursue the issue.

"This judgement has come from the lower court. There is a hierarchy of courts and there are two higher courts. There are several instances where upper courts have overturned the verdict of the lower court," the Times of India quoted chief BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad as saying.

Notably, the anti-corruption movement led by social activist Anna Hazare – which brought tens of thousands of supporters to the streets this summer – has called for the CBI to be subject to investigation by its proposed ombudsman's office because of the widespread belief that the federal agency has become a kind of political police force in service of the party in power.

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