The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government got some major relief on February 4, just days before the first phase of polling for the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, as Special Judge O. P. Saini dismissed Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy’s petition seeking to make Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram a co-accused in the 2G spectrum allocation scam. The court’s verdict has provided some succor to the government, which was acutely embarrassed this week by the Supreme Court’s cancellation of 122 2G spectrum licenses issued in 2008 by the then-Telecom Minister A. Raja. The latest verdict is a distinct boost for a government that has been mired in corruption scandals.
The judge held that there was no case against Chidambaram and declined Swamy’s plea to be allowed to give more reasons for the order. The 2G trial will resume from February 17.
Judge Saini’s 66-page verdict makes two very significant observations that should be music to the UPA leadership’ ears: “Anybody and everybody associated with a decision in any degree cannot be roped as an accused,” and “One cannot be held guilty merely by association with a decision, and a decision by itself does not indicate criminality.”
Saini said there was “no evidence on record” to suggest that there was an agreement between Chidambaram and to subvert telecom policy and obtain pecuniary advantage for himself or for any other person. “There is no evidence of any substantive act being committed by him (Chidambaram)…Innocent and innocuous acts done in association with others do not make one a partner in crime, unless there is material to indicate otherwise, which is lacking in this case,” the judgment read.
Unfazed, Swamy announced that he would be going to the High Court within the stipulated three months’ period to appeal against the trial court’s verdict, and vowed to garner more “evidence” against Chidambaram and then-Congress President Sonia Gandhi. Swami had argued that it was the duty of Chidambaram as finance minister to prevent Raja from going ahead with auctioning off 2G spectrum licenses at throwaway prices, a moveestimated to have cost the exchequer about $36 billion at current prices.
The Congress, as was to be expected, hailed the judgment, while the Bharatiya Janata Party maintained that the order wouldn’t impact its campaign against Chidambaram as there was “clear evidence” against the minister. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) demanded a statement from Prime Minister Manmohan Singhonthe issue.
The judgment comes as India’s most populous and politically crucial state of Uttar Pradesh is about to start the first of its seven-phases of polling. Of course, whether the Congress is able to extract tangible political benefits from this court order will be known only on March 6, when results for the five states’ assemblies will be announced. However, the decision is certainly a boost for the party, and means there’s no immediate threat to its survival at the center.