In the dock

In the dock

The disclosure of a note submitted by the finance ministry in March this year to the prime minister’s office on the role of home minister P Chidambaram, who was the union finance minister when the decisions on irregular spectrum allocations were taken by the then telecom minister A Raja, has given a new dimension to the controversy, the investigation into it and the cases pertaining to it.

The note, which was seen and approved by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee before being sent to the PMO, says that the finance ministry did not take any step to prevent the scam, while Chidambaram could have done so if he wanted to. The circumstances of the disclosure of the note or the alleged motivation behind it should not detract from the gravity of the substantive charge it makes against Chidambaram. It puts him in the dock, and he has to answer the pertinent questions it raises about his complicity in the scam and possible collusion with A Raja in his wrong decisions.

These questions cannot be answered without widening the scope of the current CBI investigation into the scam to include Chidambaram’s role into it. A Raja and others are in jail for their actions which caused a huge loss to the public exchequer and for the alleged corruption in connection with it.

A fresh petition has been filed in the Supreme Court, which is monitoring the investigation, for a CBI probe against Chidambaram too. But the government’s attempt seems to be to limit the investigation to Raja and his associates and to ensure that the court’s monitoring of the case is stopped. However, the Central government and the CBI have given contradictory views in the court on the need for monitoring of the case, with the government opposing it and the CBI asking for it.

The discussions between Chidambaram and the prime minister,  between Mukherjee and the prime minister or those Mukherjee and Chidambaram had with Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday would relate to the political implications of the fresh revelation and how the government and the UPA could handle it.

There is silence at the higher levels of the government and the party, except  for a comment from the union law minister who dismissed the note as one that came from a junior official. But the issue cannot be dismissed so lightly and the current CBI probe should extend to the alleged involvement of Chidambaram and the possible role of others.