I have said before that I do not agree with the CAG’s findings of colossal loss in the licensing of 2G spectrum. Auction or sale or licensing or free grant of a natural resource is a policy decision that an incumbent government is entitled to take, based on its objectives. Therefore, CAG being the auditor should not have speculated an amount of loss, when the government policy was not to earn revenue but to ensure deeper penetration of a basic service into the masses.
However, I also said that irrespective of the above position relating to policy, if it is established that there were illegalities in the allotment of licenses, then the guilty must be brought to book. Therefore, I was happy to see the former Union Minister A Raja being hauled up by the courts (though I have a certain view as regards his and others’ continued detention in the jail instead of granting bail) as a proof of our rule of law.
One may agree or disagree with the above view on policy that I mentioned. However, CBI, the investigative agency of Central Government has taken a position that there indeed was a loss, albeit much lesser than what was arrived at by the CAG. What does that mean? In my opinion, it simply means that the Government of India, being the State, holds the position that there indeed was an illegality in the allotment of spectrum, leading to loss to the exchequer. In that context my views or other similar views do not stand anymore, as far as the Government of India is concerned (irrespective of what the courts will finally decide).
There arises the next question. If the illegality extended not just to the process of allocation but to the very decision forming the basis of allocation itself, then shouldn’t whoever part of taking that decision held guilty? The commonsense suggests, yes, it should have been. Then what was the logic of CBI charging only one of the Ministers who took that decision? The documents now in the public domain and presumably in the knowledge of Government/ CBI, clearly establishes that the impugned decision was arrived at jointly by A Raja and P Chidambaram.
What follows is that, in the normal course of investigation CBI should have charge sheeted P Chidambaram as well. We do not know what prompted them not to do so. They cannot be selective in their investigations. If two persons took part in a decision making, only one cannot be charged and the other not even questioned.
I leave that aside- it is for the CBI to answer. The larger issue before me is the issue of propriety. Look at this... A Minister in the Government was charged in a serious scam that shook the very confidence of people in their government. Prime Minister stated on record in the Parliament that he was convinced that everything was alright as he got assurances from both Telecom and Finance Ministers. Yet, one of them was made a scapegoat, while the other continued to be the Home Minister of the country, negating the basic principle of equality before law.
What more.... all the while Government kept blaming the coalition politics for the whole mess. It abdicated the collective responsibility of the Cabinet. Chidambaram, who was party to the decision that landed his colleague in jail, remained silent and thereby cheated the people of this country as well as its legal system.
Now we know that another Cabinet Minister, the de facto number two of the Government had informed the Prime Minister in writing about the involvement of Chidambaram. Not just that, he had in fact put the blame for not stopping the scam squarely on Chidambaram. In effect one arm of the Government charge sheeted A Raja for an action while its Minister accused Chidambaram of being equally or more culpable for the same action.
While A Raja remained in jail, without even getting the bail, Chidambaram remained silent. He never shown the courtesy of defending A Raja, his alleged accomplice, or offered to resign if he considered A Raja actually guilty. If he believed A Raja was guilty of wrong doing in choosing not to auction the Spectrum, then he all the while knew that he was equally guilty for that decision. The only option for an honourable man was to swim or sink together with his comrade in action.
To conclude, let me state that in my opinion the courts will eventually acquit the accused in Spectrum scam, as far as the decision for not auctioning is concerned and for causing loss to exchequer. However, P Chidambaram who failed to take the people of this country into confidence all this while when one of the most serious investigation was going on a matter in which he was fully involved has lost all moral authority to continue in office.
Ministership is not a right to anyone. Chidambaram can go out and fight the legal case. When he is acquitted, he may come back; but not until then he has any right to continue as a Minister in the Government of India.