Niira Radia tapes not restricted to 2G spectrum alone: SC
Scrutiny of the tapped conversations of former corporate lobbyist Niira Radia with influential people has revealed that they were not restricted to 2G spectrum alone and “throw light on different” spheres including, recruitment of members in Railway Board, the Supreme Court said on Friday.
The apex court, which perused the confidential reports of the 10-member committee, said the scrutiny of call details of Ms. Radia with politicians, corporates and others reflect the issues concerning national security and appointments of members in Railway Board.
Observing that “the recent issue concerning the Railway Board Member” also comes to light on scrutiny of the intercepted conversations of Ms. Radia, a bench of justices G.S. Singhvi and V. Gopal Gowda said, “actually money is paid.”
However, it cautioned that “there should not be one-sided view” and there should be a thorough probe supported by material as the issues are “extremely serious.”
“On the aspect of the security of the nation, the report is hazy but extremely serious and needs thorough scrutiny of the call details. We would not like to have it unless some substantial material is found. They are throwing light on different aspects. Our perception was that everything was related to spectrum etc but it is far more wide and different altogether. There is serious cloud on some of the issues,” the bench observed.
“On national security, you (CBI) have to be very cautious which we pointed out. Till something is found, it should not become a matter of speculation because it harms the national interest. The agencies involved must be given enough time to completely look into the matter,” the bench said.
“We will give enough time to scrutinise the entire tape either by same team or whatever team you choose or by the initial team of the income tax department which intercepted Ms. Radia’s conversation,” the bench said.
It decided to hear the matter again on Tuesday to pass some orders on the initial probe done by a specially constituted team of investigators which went through the call details and transcripts.
Additional Solicitor General Paras Kuhad said in some of the items which came under the investigation, the conversations “reflect certain degree of criminality” and cases can be registered under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The bench asked Mr. Kuhad to share the report with another Additional Solicitor General L. Nageshwar Rao who was appearing for the Income Tax Department.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation, which has sought making all the recorded conversations public, alleged that CBI was on the verge of closing a case which has found a mention in the tapped talks.
He said despite the fact that there is sufficient evidence that the education of the daughter of a former Director General of Hydrocarbons was funded by a corporate house, the probe agency was trying to close the case.
Mr. Bhushan said the investigation into the case should be monitored by the apex court and the entire tapped conversation, barring personal in nature, should be put in public domain so that public spirited persons from civil society can see as to what could be done.
The bench said it would also hear on October 22, the petition filed by former Tata Chief Ratan Tata seeking action against those allegedly responsible for the leakage of the tape and his plea for right to privacy.
The apex court on August 29 had conducted two-hour-long in-camera proceedings in the case for knowing the Centre’s stand and perusing “top secret” documents which formed the basis for interception of her calls.
The apex court had decided on in-camera hearing after it found that many controversial and sensitive information and names of people figure in the various reports disclosure of which in public domain could harm national interest and could tarnish the image of people till they were established.
The conversations were recorded as part of surveillance of Radia’s phone on a complaint to the Finance Minister on November 16, 2007 alleging that within a span of nine years she had built up a business empire worth Rs 300 crore.
The government had recorded 180 days of Ms. Radia’s conversations — first from August 20, 2008 onwards for 60 days and then from October 19 for another 60 days. Later, on May 11, 2009, her phone was again put on surveillance for another 60 days following a fresh order given on May 8.
The apex court had ordered setting up of a team of investigators to examine the contents of the conversations.
The court had perused the report and transcripts prepared by the special team of investigators and said that “some of the items highlighted will become the subject matter of investigation”.