Will SC take 2G petitioner to task for U-turn on Maran?
Is the case against Dayanidhi Maran falling apart after Telecom Watchdog makes a U-turn?
A prominent whistleblower is in a spot in the 2G scam case. Telecom Watchdog Secretary Anil Kumar, the main petitioner in the decade's biggest corruption case, had backed out of his own affidavit and asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to close the case against former Communications Minister Dayanidhi Maran and Aircel.
The CBI, which is in advanced stages of investigation in the Maran case, has expressed doubts over Anil Kumar's "change in stance" and requested the Supreme Court's permission to initiate a probe against Anil Kumar too. The Supreme Court took the matter seriously and asked Anil Kumar to explain why he turned tail on the allegations he made against Dayanidhi Maran?
Despite Anil Kumar's U-turn, the case against Maran continues to have other prominent persons ranged against him, including Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan.
The case against Maran is that he forced C Sivasankaran, former owner of Aircel, to sell his stake to Malaysia-bases Maxis Group by delaying Aircel's requests for new circles and spectrum. The CBI's FIR against Maran says Maxis Group paid for this help from Maran by investing more than Rs 725 crore in companies of the Sun TV Group, owned by the Maran family, at inflated valuations.
Despite being a complainant in the Maran case, Anil Kumar has now stated: "Nobody in India, including Mr Dayanidhi Maran, could have dared to arm-twist Mr Siva with the kind of background he has.'' Instead, he has cast doubts on the CBI's credentials in the Maran's case, alleging that the CBI is acting under the influence of Louis Freeh, a former director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), in order to get somebody to testify against Maran. "The CBI should play a neutral role and investigate the matter independently," Anil Kumar now says.
On Thursday (19 April), Anil Kumar will submit his reply to the Supreme Court. He has only two options: Either he should explain why he changed his stance in Dayanidhi Maran's case or he will have to categorically apologise for his conduct. The chances are he will submit his apology to the Supreme Court, but that still does not mean the court will accept it easily.
Anil Kumar, along with Prashant Bhushan and others, had filed a public interest litigation (PIL) to initiate CBI investigations against former ministers A Raja and Maran in the 2G case. The CBI has more or less completed its investigations against Raja and had informed the Supreme Court that there was prima facie evidence against Maran, too. It hopes to file a charge-sheet in Maran's case by May-end.
Anil Kumar dropped his bombshell when he did a cover story in the February edition of Telecom Live magazine titled: "The true story of Siva's guile and deceit to wring `punt' of $100 million out of Maxis.'' As Editor-in-Chief of Telecom Live, it was Anil Kumar who had earlier pleaded with the Supreme Court to initiate investigations against Maran, but in the cover story he gave Maran a clean chit.
"From our investigations, we conclude that there is no truth in the allegation of coercion by Mr Siva against Mr Maran. He sold his licences to Maxis willingly after application of mind and after due consultation with his near and dear ones. In return, he got much a better price compared to similar deals (Essar-BPL and Essar-Hutchison) that took place around the same time in India. He spread the allegation of quid-pro-quo with malafide intention to extract more money from Maxis, when he found that he had lost money in gambling. Had this been known to (the) petitioners earlier, it is doubtful that they would have taken up this issue in the 2G PIL before the Supreme Court,'' Anil Kumar's story stated.
Not only this, Anil Kumar went a step further in his campaign for Dayanidhi Maran and personally wrote to the CBI saying that "we may not pursue this case anymore before the Hon'ble Supreme Court as it now appears that it is a private fight between Mr Siva and Maxis in which Mr Siva wants to extract some money from Maxis. We cannot become a tool in Mr Siva's hands. Moreover, private fights cannot be the subject matter of a PIL.''
In his letter to the CBI, Anil Kumar also categorically stated: "We have brought this to the notice of our counsel Mr Prashant Bhushan as well."
Prashant Bhushan, however, has denied that he had any prior knowledge of Anil Kumar writing a cover story refuting his own affidavit. Bhushan has said that he still maintains what he had said in his petition against the accused persons in the 2G scam.
Ideally, Anil Kumar should have reported the matter to the Supreme Court if he had obtained any new evidence which cast doubt on his own earlier affidavit. But Anil Kumar chose a different route and went to town with a cover story in his own weekly magazine. And then he campaigned further in favour of Maran by writing a letter to the CBI. The Supreme Court is seized with the matter which comes up for hearing and decision on Thursday.