A special court today took strong exception to the “unwarranted delay” in examination of vital witnesses in the 2G case, saying it was surprised how they suddenly became a “goldmine” of information in the last leg of the investigation. It observed that an “outstanding feature” of the case was that the more important a witness was, the more delayed was his examination. The witnesses, whom the court found to have been examined at a “highly belated stage”, included three officials of the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) — A K Srivastava, ex- deputy director general (Access Services), D S Mathur, then secretary and Nitin Jain, then director of Access Services-I (AS-I).
The others were then telecom minister A Raja’s additional personal secretary Aseervatham Achary, R J S Kushvaha, ex- joint wireless advisor, Dinesh Jha, former deputy wireless advisor, Ashok Wadhwa, ex-additional director of Tiger Traders Pvt Ltd, about whom the court said they “ought to have been examined at the earliest possible opportunity.” “It is true that the record seized in the case is huge and the case is complicated one. But this cannot be a ground for such unwarranted and unexplained delay in the examination of witnesses by the investigating agency,” Special CBI Judge O P Saini said. The court noted that for more than one year after lodging of the case, nothing was done by the investigating agencies.
“I may add that there was no expeditious investigation in this case. On registration of the case, for more than a year, almost nothing was done in the case and then suddenly all the witnesses were recorded one after the another as if the investigators had all of a sudden gained all the knowledge of the case and the witnesses had also become source of all the information,” the judge said. The court observed that the case was lodged on October 21, 2009, yet a large number of witnesses were examined after the arrest of Raja on February 2, 2011.
“This unwarranted delay in the examination of important witnesses coupled with the type of hype around the case indicates that the witnesses may be under pressure or were even coerced to toe the prosecution line,” it said. The judge said that the statements of witnesses who were expected to be “in the know of everything” that had happened in this case, were recorded at a very late stage and with a rapid pace for which no explanation has been given.
“It is surprising as to how many a witnesses suddenly acquired all the knowledge of the case and became virtual gold mine of information. This puts a question mark on the truthfulness of the prosecution case and lends credence to the theory of pressure on the witnesses,” the court said. It also noted said that the statement of one of “the most important” witnesses A K Srivastava of the Department of Telecommunication (DoT), was recorded by the CBI on November 29, 2010, that was, more than one year after registration of the case in 2009.
It said that raids were conducted on the premises of some important DoT officials, who have been examined as prosecution witnesses in the case and there was a huge hype around the case created by individuals, group of individuals as well as the media, both print and electronic. The court also noted that several important witnesses, including Aseervatham Achary, Raja’s additional personal secretary, who deposed about the association of Raja with Shahid Balwa, Vinod Goenka, Sanjay Chandra and Kanimozhi Karunanithi, were examined “at a very belated stage”, that was, on March 24, 2011.
The judge also slammed the investigating agencies for filing large number of documents almost till the conclusion of the case, saying the idea of the prosecution was “to bury this Court under the weight of documents”. “I may also add that similar attitude was adopted by prosecution relating to filing of documents and it kept filing documents almost till the conclusion of trial. Large number of documents were filed more than a dozen times on the ground that they were missed out due to inadvertence,” Saini said.
“The sheer number of documents filed in the case shows that the idea of the prosecution was to bury this Court under the weight of documents and at least in this matter defence also equally competed with the prosecution and liberally summoned and filed documents taking advantage of highprofile nature of the case,” the judge added. The DoT officials also found a special mention for their conduct during examination before the court with the judge saying “not only did they depose contrary to official record but also kept fumbling for answers and gave evasive replies skirting around the real issue”.
“This is clear from perusal of their testimony. The prosecutor was hesitant in putting straight questions and witnesses were equally evasive and hesitant in their reply,” the court said. “They kept beating about the bush and never came to the bush. Prosecution was also wary off putting straight questions to them apprehending they may blurt out anything and was satisfied just with proving the documents by getting the handwriting or signatures identified. “In the end, pressure on the witnesses cannot be ruled out and this puts a question mark on the fairness of investigation,” it said.