Escape route

The appointment of a one-man committee, headed by former supreme court judge Shivraj Patil, to investigate the spectrum scandal adds to the multiplicity of enquiries which are now being conducted into the matter. The announcement of the committee, made by Union telecom minister Kapil Sibal, was obviously to counter the demand for the setting of a joint parliamentary committee. But it cannot be a substitute for a JPC. There are already many agencies which are investigating the scandal. The Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) has made an investigation and its report has found fault with the processes and procedures followed by the telecom ministry, the grant of licences and allocation of spectrum. It is the same ground which the new committee is going to investigate. The difference is that it will cover the decisions taken during the NDA government’s tenure too.

It is a scenario where many parallel inquiries are being undertaken. The supreme court is seized of the matter. The CBI and the ED are making investigations. The public accounts committee of parliament will also examine the issue on the basis of the CAG report. It has started its examination. It was on the supreme court’s advice that the CBI widened the scope of its investigation to cover the NDA government’s decisions. It was the NDA government’s telecom policy that former telecom minister A Raja took advantage of, though there was no justification for him to change the bidding rules in favour of select companies and for awarding spectrum in 2008 at 2001 prices.

An unfortunate aspect of the entire spectrum controversy is that it has been badly politicised. Even the business community, which should stay neutral, has got involved. The side show of an exchange of letters between Tata group chairman, Ratan Tata, and an independent MP, Rajiv Chandrasekhar, is evidence of that. A proper and impartial investigation by the CBI when the controversy surfaced would have unraveled the ramifications of the scandal and helped to nail the guilty. The agency had to be prodded by the supreme court into action. It has belatedly conducted raids and searches on Raja and his associates but the suspects perhaps had a long time to clean up their drawers. The court is yet to decide whether the CBI investigation will be under its supervision. The concern at present is whether the truth will be lost in the welter of various investigations  and the guilty will escape.

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