New Delhi/Chennai: Turning the heat on former telecom minister A Raja in the multi-crore second generation (2G) spectrum scam, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) today carried out searches at his residences in Delhi and Chennai besides carrying out raids at the premises of four telecom officials, including his personal secretary R K Chandolia, reports PTI.
A team of about 80 CBI sleuths began the operations in the wee hours in Delhi and Chennai at the residences of 47-year-old Raja and the other officials.
Mr Raja was forced to resign as minister on 14th November in the wake of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) report that the rates at which 2G spectrum was allotted resulted in a possible loss to the exchequer to the tune of Rs1.76 lakh crore.
Besides being accused of undervaluing 2G spectrum, Mr Raja has also been held responsible for circumventing the rules to favour companies that did not meet the eligibility criteria for getting spectrum licences.
AIADMK demanded that Mr Raja be arrested under the Prevention of Corruption Act. “It’s a belated action. But it is better late than never. The next logical step should be to arrest Mr Raja under the PCA and interrogate him,” AIADMK leader V Maitreyan said.
Coming out in support of Mr Raja, his party, DMK, said, “He is our party member. We will stand by him”. “Let CBI do its duty. Let them come out with their findings. We will see.” party spokesperson TKS Elangovan said.
Raids were also carried out at the residences of former telecom secretary Siddarth Behura, Chandolia, member Telecom Commission K Sridhar and deputy director general in the Department of Telecom A K Srivastava, CBI sources said.
Agency sources said Mr Raja was all set to be questioned by it. Mr Raja has been maintaining that he was ready for being quizzed by the CBI any time.
The CBI action comes close on the heels of the Supreme Court coming down heavily on the CBI on 22nd November for failing to question Mr Raja and the telecom secretary in connection with the scam, saying it was “beating around the bush”.
The residence of Mr Behura, who became telecom secretary on 1 January, 2008, was also searched. He was also asked questions about the licensing procedures.
Mr Behura told CBI that licenses were handed over on 10 January, 2008 and that the decision had already been taken, a statement he made to Public Accounts Committee of Parliament yesterday as well.
The questioning of Mr Raja comes within days after the CBI informing the Supreme Court that it had transcribed nearly 6,000 telephone calls involving corporate lobbyist Nira Radia, Raja and others during which a purported mention about the allocation of spectrum was also made.
Mr Chandolia, who was sent back to his parent department—Indian Economic Services—within days of new telecom minister Kapil Sibal taking charge, has been quizzed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on the issue of the first-come-first-served basis for the allocation of spectrum in 2008 after the cut off date for receiving applications was advanced at short notice by a week from 1 October, 2007 to 25th September.
Several companies complained that they had been unable to fulfil the application requirements because of the very short notice and had alleged that the preponement was clearly aimed at favouring the chosen few who had been intimated beforehand.
Mr Chandolia was personal secretary to Mr Raja at the time of the controversial spectrum allocation in 2008. Mr Srivastava was heading the licensing division of the DoT when the licenses were issued.
The CBI had registered a case on 21st October, 2009 against unknown Department of Telecom officials and private persons and companies for allegedly causing loss of thousands of crores of rupees to the exchequer.
The CBI has earlier searched offices of Wireless Planning Cell (WPC), the department responsible for allocating spectrum, and the office of deputy director general (access services) of the telecom ministry to probe the allegations of connivance of officials with private companies in allocation of spectrum.
It had also conducted searches in eight cities housing headquarters of various telecom firms in connection with its probe into the alleged scam.
Mr Raja quit just before the Winter Session of Parliament began, but it was not enough for an opposition baying for the government's blood on the 2G scam.
Opposition parties have been demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the 2G scam which has led to virtual wash out of this session.
Today was the 19th consecutive working day when both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha were disrupted on the JPC demand which the government has refused to accept.