In a judgment that has captured the attention of everyone in the country, a Special CBI court today acquitted former Union Telecom Minister A Raja and sixteen others of cheating and criminal conspiracy charges in the alleged 2G scam that was said to have cost the state exchequer 1.76 trillion rupees.
In his 1500+ page verdict, CBI judge OP Saini has held that given the lack of evidence mounted by the prosecution, he had no choice but to give a clean chit to the accused. In fact, in para 1811 of the judgment, the judge states that he had been waiting in vain for over six years to receive a shred of credible evidence.
“I may also add that for the last about seven years, on all working days, summer vacation included, I religiously sat in the open Court from 10 AM to 5 PM, awaiting for someone with some legally admissible evidence in his possession, but all in vain. Not a single soul turned up. This indicates that everybody was going by public perception created by rumour, gossip and speculation. However, public perception has no place in judicial proceedings.”
And it is this speculation that had sent Raja and co to the gallows, so to speak, even before the trial began. The judge notes that none of the people who did the same came forth to prove the accusations.
“It is also to be noted that there are many representations on record made by various prominent public spirited persons before various Authorities relating to wrongdoing in the instant case. However, none of them also volunteered to enter the witnessbox. What does all this mean? Apparently this means that nobody had any good or first hand material in his possession.”
Today’s judgment has, of course, shattered all notions about an alleged scam that sent shockwaves through the country.
So where exactly did the prosecution go wrong in trying to establish guilt against the accused?
Towards the end of the judgment, Saini makes some scathing remarks against the prosecution, led by Special Public Prosecutor Anand Grover. In particular, the failure on the part of the prosecutors to file written statements is criticized by the judge.
“…by the end, the quality of prosecution totally deteriorated and it became directionless and diffident. Not much is required to be written as the things are apparent from the perusal of the evidence itself. However, a few instances would suffice to indicate the behaviour of the prosecution. Several applications and replies were filed in the Court on behalf of the prosecution. However, in the latter and also in the final phase of the trial, no senior officer or prosecutor was willing to sign these applications or replies and the same used to be signed by a junior most officer Inspector Manoj Kumar posted in the Court.
When questioned, the reply of the regular Sr. PP would be that the learned Spl. PP would sign it and when the learned Spl. PP was questioned, he would say that CBI people would sign it. Ultimately, the petition/ reply would be filed under the signature of Inspector. This shows that neither any investigator nor any prosecutor was willing to take any responsibility for what was being filed or said in the Court…”
The judgment goes on to state,
“When the rebuttal arguments started only then the prosecution started filing its written arguments on daytoday basis, apart from making oral submissions. In a sense, the main address of the prosecution was made during the rebuttal arguments. In order to meet this unique situation, the defence had to be given extra two days for further rebutting the arguments of the prosecution introduced through written arguments. Not only this, the most painful part is that learned Spl. PP was not ready to sign the written submissions filed by him. What is the use of a document in a Court of law, which is not signed by anyone? When questioned as to why the learned Spl. PP was filing unsigned written submissions, his reply would be that some defence advocates had also not signed the written submissions. Great efforts had to be made to persuade the learned Spl. PP to sign the written submissions, but all in vain. Thereafter, written orders had to be repeatedly passed to make him sign the written submissions filed by him in the Court under the threat that unsigned written submissions would not be taken note of. Only thereafter he yielded and signed the written submissions.
…This shows that the learned Spl. PP and the regular prosecutor were moving in two different directions without any coordination. Many more things can be said but that would only add to the length of the order.
… A case is to be decided on the basis of evidence led by the parties and not on the basis of arguments alone. Arguments are no substitute for evidence. The end result is that prosecution failed to put its case to the witnesses indicating that it gave up its case during examination of witnesses itself.”
The judge has also chastised the CBI as well as the officials of the Department of Telecom for doing a shoddy job of making the case.
“The fate of the case thus depended upon witnesses from DoT and from the companies of the accused. The witnesses from DoT were either highly guarded, and if I may say so hesitant, in their deposition, and also went against official record rendering themselves unreliable. Witnesses from the companies of the accused also did not support the prosecution version…
…The charge sheet of the instant case is based mainly on misreading, selective reading, nonreading and out of context reading of the official record. Further, it is based on some oral statements made by the witnesses during investigation, which the witnesses have not owned up in the witnessbox. Lastly, if statements were made orally by the witnesses, the same were contrary to the official record and thus, not acceptable in law.”
Therefore, the judge was left with no choice but to acquit Raja, Kanimozhi and several higher-ups at big corporates.
While the final decision of the case will fall upon the appellate court, for now, the chapter has been closed on the 2G scam that never was.
Read the judgment: