New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Wednesday arrested former telecoms minister Andimuthu Raja over an alleged telecoms scam linked to awarding mobile licences, in a move that could weaken the coalition government.
Raja's arrest comes months after the country’s apex court issued a notice on his alleged involvement in the 2G mobile spectrum scam and the opposition shut down parliament, demanding a joint inquiry into a government auditor's report that India potentially lost crores of rupees in revenue when ineligible firms were given lucrative telecoms licences cheaply in 2008.
A timeline of events leading up to the arrest of A Raja
September 13, 2010: Supreme Court issues notice to then Telecom Minister A Raja and the Centre on alleged irregularities in allocation of the 2G spectrum and asks for response on a petition seeking the court to monitor an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into irregularities in sale of licenses.
The bench also issues notices to the CBI, Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax Department on the petition filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), an NGO, and others. The petitioners challenge the May 25 decision of the Delhi High Court dismissing its plea to monitor the CBI probe into the alleged role of the Union Communications Minister in the sale of 2G spectrum licences in 2008.
October 28, 2010: Raja refuses to resign from the Cabinet. Raja says he will not resign over the spectrum controversy as he followed his predecessors and decisions were taken in consultation with the Prime Minister and the approval of the Solicitor-General.
November 12, 2010: Opposition presses government to sack Raja. The Opposition parties, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party, demand the resignation of Raja, and say the "scam" should be investigated by a joint parliamentary committee. Raja, who belongs to the DMK party, an ally of the governing Congress party, says there is "no question" of his resigning.
November 13, 2010: CNN-IBN exposes CAG report on 2G scam. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had asked Telecom Minister A Raja to auction the 2G spectrum but the minister chose to ignore his advice. Raja has been claiming that the Prime Minister gave the go ahead to him. But documents with CNN-IBN nail another of Raja's lies. Three letters all exchanged on November 2, 2007 between the Prime Minister and Telecom Minister show just how concerned Singh was with Raja's actions.
November 13, 2010: Raja says former Telecom Secretary D S Mathur was part and parcel of all decisions on 2G spectrum allocation over which he is facing the heat from the opposition demanding his resignation. Mathur has claimed that he had recommended to Raja that spectrum be given through auction so that there can be transparency. Raja says suggestions on likely availability of spectrum were also useful in arriving at the cut-off date of September 25, 2007 for allocation of the airwaves. He does not, however, specify who made the suggestions.
Opposition stalls Parliament asking for a JPC probe in 2G scam
November 14, 2010: A Raja resigns from the Union Cabinet. Facing Opposition onslaught and after days of defiance, Raja finally submits his resignation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the 2G spectrum scandal. The 57-year-old lawyer-politician, who got the coveted portfolio after the exit of Dayanidhi Maran in 2007 and retained it after the May, 2009 elections, drove to Prime Minister's residence to hand in his resignation.
November 16, 2010: The CAG report on 2G spectrum scam tabled in Parliament even as the opposition continues to demand a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the accusations against former Telecom Minister A Raja. Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha is adjourned soon after the report is tabled. CAG report will be taken up by Public Accounts Committee headed by MM Joshi, which has members from other parties too.
December 2, 2010: Supreme Court comes down heavily on Raja for 'bypassing' and even 'overruling' Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's advice to defer the allocation of 2G spectrum by a few days. Apex court takes strong exception to the tone and tenor of Raja's letter to the prime minister, saying it amounted to showing 'disrespect' to the highest authority in the country.
December 7, 2010: CBI raids Raja and his aides. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) finds what it says were "incriminating documents" in raids on homes and offices of the former telecoms minister in connection with the country's biggest corruption scandal.
CBI agents search 14 locations across Delhi and Tamil Nadu. The Supreme Court criticises the CBI for not questioning Raja in its year-long investigation despite him being at the centre of the inquiry.
December 24, 25, 2010: CBI questions A Raja for eight hours at the CBI headquarters in Delhi in connection to the 2G spectrum scam. After the questioning was over, Raja said he cooperated fully with the CBI. The CBI is looking for the money trail of 2G funds and linking the evidence to companies owned by Raja and friends.
January 31, 2011: The CBI questions A Raja for the third time in connection with the funding and allegedly showing favours to some telecom companies in granting 2G spectrum between October 2007 and 2008. Raja is called to CBI office and quizzed for nearly nine hours.
The DMK MP is asked about his conversations with corporate lobbiyst Niira Radia and the reasons of advancing the cut-off date of allocation of the spectrum in 2007. Raja is confronted with some documents recovered by the agency.
February 2, 2011: CBI arrests Raja in 2G spectrum scam case. CBI also nabs his personal secretary RK Chandolia and former telecom secretary Siddharth Behuria. Raja is arrested under sections 120B, 13(2), 13(1D) of Prevention of Corruption Act on the charges of criminal misconduct, violation of policies and favouring some specific companies during the grant of 2G spectrum licences.