Indian minister arrested over spectrum scandal

Former Indian telecoms minister Andimuthu Raja has been arrested in the ongoing drama over the controversial sale of telephone spectrum during 2008.

India’s top federal invesitigative agency finally landed Raja and two of his aides in what government opposition see as an overdue move.

At the end of last year TechEye reported that Raja had been rather undecided about whether he would need to stand trial, so we can only imagine that he is relieved that this has now firmly been decided for him.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) confirmed that the arrests of Mr. Raja, R.K. Chandolia, Mr. Raja’s former personal secretary, and former telecom secretary Siddartha Behura were due to facts that have been disclosed during an investigation into the allocation of licenses and bandwidth to certain companies ahead of others.

It is alleged that due to the trio’s meddling, the country lost out on an estimated $39 billion in potential revenues because of spectrum being massively undersold.  

Raja served between May 2007 and his resignation on November 14 2010, since when he has protested his innocence along with his aides, according to the WSJ.

It is now thought that the three men will appear in court today, with prosecutors seeking custody in lieu of further investigations.

While it might seem that the arrest of Raja and his cronies might signal a positive move in a country plagued by such corruption scandals, it is worth noting that another former telecoms minister, Sukh Ram, is still awaiting conviction in a corruption case from way back in 1996.

However, it is hoped that the arrests will allow Parliament to return to normal after opposition parties led by the BJP obstructed all of the winter parliamentary session because of the scandal, after demands for a probe by a joint parliamentary panel were rejected.

While a BJP spokesperson, Prakash Javadekar, claimed that the arrest was “too little, too late”, former newspaper editor and political commentator Prem Shankar Jha, said that he believes the fact that an arrest has been made is symbolic of a change in attitude in a government where the harshest penalty for such corruption is for a minister to loss their job.

“It’s a huge breakthrough,” Jha said. “It shows this government is now serious about tackling corruption.”