Pursue vigorously

The CBI investigation into the case pertaining to the 2006 Aircel-Maxis deal involving former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran seems to have hit a dead end with the agency submitting to the Supreme Court that it would have to file a closure report if it is unable to get evidence of any quid pro quo in the deal.

The charge against the former minister is one of misuse of power and corruption as it is alleged that he coerced the Chennai-based telecom promoter C Sivasankaran to sell his stake in Aircel to the Maxis group in Malaysia. The  group is owned by a business tycoon based in Malaysia. Sivasankaran has himself said that there was pressure on him and there is evidence of impropriety and illegality in the deal. The CBI has submitted a status report to the court, which has observed that the investigations so far have pointed to a nexus.

The agency still cannot proceed further because it is unable to get the required information from Malaysia, where it says a politically powerful person is blocking it. It is not certain whether it is an admission of genuine helplessness or whether the CBI is itself under pressure to stall the case for political reasons. Neither is acceptable.

The court has rightly told the agency that it is not ready to indefinitely wait for information. It has asked the Indian high commission in Malaysia to extend full co-operation to the CBI in investigating the case in that country. The agency claims that the domestic part of the investigation is over and official communications have been sent to Malaysia and Mauritius, through which funds were channelised. With so much of incriminating information at its disposal it is surprising that the agency cannot go any further.

The Malaysian government is legally bound to extend help when there is an official request from India and when it is pursued earnestly. It is difficult to prove corruption in a deal and file an FIR, as the CBI told the court, if there is a no proof of a quid pro quo.

The Aircel- Maxis deal case is precariously poised on the availability of this information. Given the UPA government’s track record, people will surmise that it is another instance of trying to bury a strong case involving a coalition partner. The court shouldn’t allow it to happen.

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