New Delhi: Coming out in strong defence of Home Minister P Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal on Saturday attacked the BJP-led NDA of attempting to "foist" culpability on him in the 2G scam saying it was a desperate attempt to make Parliamentary democracy dysfunctional.
     
Sibal held a press conference to say that the government rejected all allegations against Chidambaram, Finance Minister at the time of spectrum allocation, and alleged that elements in the NDA were trying to malign and defame him.
    
He also said the then Telecom Minister A Raja did not hold any meeting with Chidambaram prior to the issuance of the Letter of Intent (LoI) to telecom operators (2G spectrum allocation) on January 10, 2008.
    
"In fact, the record will show that the Ministry of Finance had no knowledge that the LoIs would be issued on January 10, 2008," Sibal said.
    
He said Chidambaram as Finance Minister was in no way responsible for issue of Letter of Intent by Telecom Ministry then headed by A Raja in January 2008.
   
He said no official of the Finance Ministry, including the then Finance Minister, had committed any "irregularity or misconduct" in the spectrum allocation.
   
"People in NDA are trying to malign and defame P Chidambaram.  We reject all allegations against him in the 2G scam. Chidambaram is a valued colleague. He discharged his duties without any fear or favour," the Minister said.

Sibal's remarks come in the context of the opposition stalling the Parliament demanding Chidambaram's resignation following a Delhi court allowing Subramanian Swamy to depose himself as a witness in a complaint seeking to file a case against the Home Minister.
   
"Therefore, any attempt by the opposition to foist any culpability on P Chidambaram  is not only irresponsible but is yet another desperate attempt to make the institution of Parliamentary democracy dysfunctional," he said.
   
Sibal said as Finance Minister, it was Chidambaram who raised the issue of revision of entry fee, but it was the Telecom Ministry which was of the view that it would adopt the same policy that had been followed since 2003. This included charging the same entry fee of about Rs 1,650 crore, he said.
   
"It is therefore preposterous to suggest that Shri P Chidambaram has any role to play in 'fixing' the entry fee for the LoIs issued on January 10, 2008," he said.
   
When asked about Finance Ministry documents that purportedly showed Chidambaram and Raja meeting on fixing 2G prices, Sibal said there were meetings after the LoIs were issued in January but not before that.
   
Sibal also defended the policy on 2G spectrum allocation and pointed out that even the courts have not made out any charge of loss of revenue.
   
"The policy was right but the matter in courts is whether the policy was implemented properly or not," he said.
    
In a four-page statement, Sibal listed out in detail the policies related to the opening up of the Telecom sector since 1994.
   
On acceptance of Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy's petition in a Delhi court in connection with the 2G case, Sibal said the magistrate concerned was only following the law.
   
Sibal said it was wrong for a section of the media to paint this as a victory for Swamy. The law states that if a complainant goes to court with a complaint, under Section 200 of the code of criminal procedure his statement has to be recorded exparte by the magistrate, he said.
   
The complainant can also bring along witnesses whose statements shall also be recorded by the magistrate.
   
"Once that is done, the magistrate decides whether to order an inquiry or drop the procedure," Sibal said. On the 2G allocations, he said the Department of Telecom (DoT) maintained that dual technology licences were issued based on TRAI recommendations which had not suggested any changes in the entry fee.
   
"On August 28, 2007, TRAI recommended that there should be no change in the policy in allotting 2G spectrum on the ground that there should be a level playing field for new entrants," Sibal said.
   
"DoT strongly relied on the said recommendation and reiterated the policy of no auction; no cap on number of licences; first-come-first-served basis; same entry fee; and licence bundled with spectrum," he said.

Sibal also said that it is pertinent to point out that CBI has submitted to the Supreme Court that it had looked into the matter thoroughly, recorded the statement of the then Finance Secretary, and had come to the conclusion that no official of the Ministry of Finance, including the then Finance Minister, had committed any irregularity or misconduct.
    
"Therefore, any attempt by the opposition to foist any culpability on Shri P Chidambaram is not only irresponsible but is yet another desperate attempt to make the institution of Parliamentary democracy dysfunctional," Sibal added.
    
Sibal also made reference to quote given by the Prime Minister which stated, "My own view has been that as far as the telecom policy that was sought to be implemented by the UPA government is concerned, in the basic policy, there was nothing wrong."
    
He also said that the opposition in the Parliament has an important role to play and the Government is willing to cooperate with the opposition to ensure that all issues of importance are discussed in accordance with the rules.
    
"The opposition must also cooperate with the Government in ensuring that government business is transacted and crucial legislations are passed," he added.

BJP insists Chidambaram's role to be probed

BJP on Saturday dismissed government's contention that P Chidambaram as Finance Minister had no hand in the 2G scam and demanded that his role be properly investigated in the case.

"What the BJP is demanding is determining Chidambaram's role as then Finance Minister in the spectrum scam," BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

Criticising government's move to come out in strong defence of the Home Minister, Prasad said, "It is surprising that after ...Pranab Mukherjee, now it is the turn of Kapil Sibal to appease a sulking Chidambaram."

He said, "What was the sudden need to defend Chidambaram by Kapil Sibal. Are these statements of appeasement designed to defend a sulking colleague."

Prasad charged that Chidambaram "did not take appropriate steps to ensure auction of spectrum in an honest and transparent manner."

While "over-ruling the objections of senior officers that there should be a transparent mechanism, he (Chidambaram) insisted that spectrum for 2G in 2007 be allocated at 2001 prices, inspite of a phenomenal rise in tele-density in the country," he alleged.

The BJP leader insisted this was "confirmed" by the Finance Ministry's note earlier, which was also whetted by the Prime Minister's Office. He claimed the March 25 note of the Finance Ministry had "condemned" Chidambaram's role as the then Finance Minister in spectrum pricing.

"We want to ask Sibal and his colleagues in the government whether it is true that senior officials of the Finance Ministry, one of whom is now the RBI Governor had said that spectrum pricing should be made through fair market mechanism keeping in mind the tele-density," Prasad said.

Earlier in the day, Sibal at a press conference attacked the BJP-led NDA of attempting to "foist" culpability on Chidambaram in the 2G scam, saying it was a desperate attempt to make Parliamentary democracy dysfunctional.

He also rejected all allegations against Chidambaram, who was Finance Minister at the time of spectrum allocation, and alleged that elements in the NDA were trying to malign and defame him.

(JPN/Agencies)