Policy

CBI arrests former Telecom Minister A Raja

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on March 12, 2018

Mr A. Raja, former Minister of Communications and IT   -  PTI

The Central Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday arrested former Communications and IT Minister, Mr Andimuthu Raja, for alleged irregularities in awarding mobile licences in 2008 to a select few companies. The investigating agency also arrested Mr Siddarth Behura, former Secretary of the Telecom Department, and Mr A.K. Chandolia, private secretary to Mr Raja. Both these officials are alleged to have played a key role at the time when these licences were given out.

“Based on the facts disclosed so far during the investigations regarding their role in allocation of Letter of Intent and resultant Unified Access Services Licences and spectrum to certain companies ahead of others, the CBI has arrested the then Telecom Minister, the then Telecom Secretary, the then Private Secretary to the Minister,” a brief statement issued by the CBI said.

The arrests come after nearly one-and-a-half years since the CBI started investigating the case in 2009. The CBI conducted its first raid on the Department of Telecom in October 2009. This was followed by massive raids across 14 locations in Delhi and Tamil Nadu on December 7, 2010. Mr Raja was interrogated twice in December last year and once in January 2011 before he was arrested on Wednesday.

CAG indictment

The issue had been brewing since 2008 when the Central Vigilance Commission had first indicated that there were procedural irregularities in awarding 2G licences to six new companies. This was ratified by a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General, which indicted Mr Raja and DoT for following a flawed process that gave undue advantage to a few companies. The CAG said that the national exchequer may have lost the opportunity to earn as much as Rs 1.4 lakh crore due to the policy followed by Mr Raja. The CAG report forced Mr Raja to exit the Telecom Ministry even as the Opposition parties stalled Parliament over the issue. The final nail was hammered in when a report by retired Supreme Court Justice Mr Shivraj Patil named Raja and DoT officials for procedural lapses.

The arrest comes just a week ahead of the Supreme Court-set deadline for the investigating agency to submit a status report. But the Opposition parties said that the arrest was too late and the focus now should be on those companies who were beneficiaries of the former Telecom Minister's policy. The CAG report named Swan Telecom (now Etisalat DB) and Reliance Communications as the main beneficiaries. Unitech Wireless (now Uninor), STel, Loop Telecom and Datacom (now Videocon) were also named in the report.

Mr Raja is the second former Telecom Minister to be arrested. In 1996, the CBI had arrested Mr Sukhram for amassing disproportionate assets. He was sentenced to three years imprisonment in 2009.

The key benchmark indices came sharply off the day's highs and hit fresh intra-day lows in late trade after reports that the CBI had arrested Mr A. Raja.

tkt@thehindu.co.in

Published on February 02, 2011

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