New Delhi: The Supreme Court (SC) today came down heavily on former telecom minister A Raja for “bypassing” and even “overruling” prime minister Manmohan Singh’s advice to defer the allocation of the second generation (2G) spectrum by a few days, reports PTI.
The apex court also took strong exception to the tone and tenor of Mr Raja's letter to the prime minister, saying it amounted to showing “disrespect” to the highest authority in the country.
The bench of Justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly said Mr Raja had not paid heed to the prime minister’s letter asking him to wait for some days before taking any action on the allocation of spectrum.
Resuming hearing on the petition by non-government organisation (NGO), Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), on the spectrum scam, the court raised questions on Mr Raja ignoring the law ministry’s advice seeking opinion of the Attorney General (AG) as “out of context”.
The court made the remarks after noting that the law minister has given an opinion that the matter be referred to the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGOM) for seeking the opinion of the law officers like the Attorney General and Solicitor General.
“Raja first received opinion of the law ministry which he overruled by saying it was out of context, then he received a letter of PM on the same day asking him to wait and let me (PM) know further action you (Mr Raja) take. That is also ignored,” the court said.
“The letter of the law ministry for taking opinion of AG was ignored. The PM's letter was ignored. Is this the way the government functions?” the court asked.
Senior advocate T R Andhyarujina, appearing for Mr Raja, however, contended that the former telecom minister never ignored the opinion of the law ministry or the advice of the prime minister.
The bench then shot back, “The question is what led him to say that the law ministry's opinion was out of context.”
“Nothing could have happened if you would have waited for two-three days after receiving the letter from the prime minister,” the bench snapped.
“First, Mr Raja is saying that the opinion of law ministry is out of context and then not considering the letter of the prime minister,” the bench said.
Mr Andhyarujina, who faced a volley of questions, tried to impress upon the bench that Mr Raja showed no disrespect to the prime minister, who, he said, was entitled to know everything about the allocation of spectrum.
“There was no question of showing any disrespect to the prime minister. The prime minister is entitled to know everything,” the senior advocate said.
“Prima facie, he has shown disrespect,” the bench observed.
The apex court said Mr Raja should have written back to the law minister when the latter had expressed certain reservations and there was no reason why he should have written a letter to the prime minister.
“It is an inter-departmental correspondence. The PM has no connection,” the bench observed.
The apex court also took strong exception to the tone and tenor of Mr Raja's letter wherein words like “unfair, discriminatory, capricious and arbitrary” were used in the letter written to the PM.
In a sarcastic manner it said, “Look at the command of his language”.
“When you address a letter to the highest executive, the tenor of the language should be temperate. Here, it is a question of attitude,” the bench said, also faulting Mr Raja's attitude.
The bench said that Mr Raja could have taken the matter before the Cabinet.
The bench also sought Mr Andhyarujina's personal opinion on the issue. “Tell us from your experience if a minister can write to the PM saying that an opinion given by the Law ministry is out of context.”
The bench said there is no reason to contest the law ministry's suggestion.
“The colleagues in the ministry do not write out of context. We do not have such experience. We have been chief justices of the high courts. They work with greater sense of responsibility,” the bench said.
The bench also took exception to the letter written by Mr Raja to the Prime Minister.
Mr Andhyarujina, however, sought to impress upon the bench that the letter had only produced the recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
But an unimpressed bench found fault with Mr Raja’s attitude saying, “Look at the gloss of the minister.”
At this point, Mr Andhyarujina pleaded that Mr Raja “may be guilty of gloss but not disrespect.”
During the hearing, Mr Andhyarujina said Mr Raja has done what was required to be done and there was no question of any disrespect to the prime minister.
Earlier, Mr Andhyarujina said he (Mr Raja) only came into the picture in May 2007 and he was continuing with the policy that was being implemented by his predecessors.
“You (only) walked on the footsteps of your predecessors,” the bench remarked, to which Mr Andhyarujina replied, “Yes, I walked on the footsteps of my predecessors.”
47-year-old Mr Raja was forced to resign as telecom 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 loss to the exchequer to the tune of Rs1.76 lakh crore.