Radia tapes controversy
The Radia tapes controversy relates to the telephonic conversations between Nira Radia, an Influence peddler and an acquaintance of the (then) Indian telecom minister A. Raja, and with senior journalists, politicians, and corporate houses, taped by the Indian Income Tax Department in 2008–09. The tapes led to accusations of misconduct by many of these people. Nira Radia used to run a public relations firm named Vaishnavi Communications, whose clients include the Tata Teleservices and Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries.
The Radia Tapes
After getting authorisation from the Home Ministry, the Indian Income Tax department tapped Radia's phone lines for 300 days in 2008–2009 as part of their investigations into possible money laundering, restricted financial practices, and tax evasion.
In November 2010, OPEN magazine carried a story which reported transcripts of some of the telephone conversations of Nira Radia with senior journalists, politicians, and corporate houses, many of whom have denied the allegations. The Central Bureau of Investigation has announced that they have 5,851 recordings of phone conversations by Radia, some of which outline Radia's attempts to broker deals in relation to the 2G spectrum sale. The tapes appear to demonstrate how Radia attempted to use some media persons to influence the decision to appoint A. Raja as telecom minister.
- Barkha Dutt, Group editor, English news, new delhi television(ndtv),ndtv also has a hindi news channel "ndtv india"
- M.K. Venu, senior business journalist
- Prabhu Chawla, editor of India Today magazine
- Shankar Aiyar, then with India Today Group
- Vir Sanghvi, HT advisory editorial director
- Tarun Das, former CII head
- Ranjan Bhattacharya (foster son-in-law of former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee)
- Suhel Seth, Brand Manager
According to the transcripts of the tapes, Radia lobbied against the reappointment of Dayanidhi Maran to the post of Union IT and Communications minister.
- Radia spoke with Ms. Barkha Dutt at 0948 IST.
Dutt: 'The stalemate (between Congress and DMK) continues, ya
Radia: 'my honest advice is that you tell them (Congress) that they need to tell him (Karunanidhi) directly ..
Dutt: 'OK, let me talk to them'.
In a later conversation at 1047 IST, Barkha says that it (conveying the message to Congress) was 'not a problem' and that she would talk to Ghulam (Nabi Azad).
- Radia, in a later conversation with Ranjan Bhattacharya, who also appears to be acting as a conduit to the Congress, mentions the above conversation, where she says, 'I made Barkha call up Congress, and get a statement from Congress whether the Prime Minister has actually said that he doesn't want Baalu, which she carried that he had never said it'. She also mentions to Bhattacharya, that 'your friend Sunil Mittal, has been lobbying against Raja (for Maran).'
The news gained prominence following sustained pressure on social networking sites Twitter and Facebook against an attempted blackout orchestrated by many prominent Indian TV channels and newspapers. #barkhagate was a trending number one topic on Twitter in India for more than a week, since the break-out of the news. According to the Washington Post, "Twitter has played an important role in launching what has become an international conversation on the issue, with the Indian diaspora weighing in".
Initially, only a handful of the mainstream newspapers in India, like The Deccan Herald, Indian Express had openly written about the tapes. Some newspapers like HT Media, Mint (the business newspaper also owned by HT media) and NDTV said "the authenticity of these transcripts cannot be ascertained". CNN-IBN's Sagarika Ghose discussed with a panel of experts, if the corporate lobbying is undermining democracy, on the 'Face the Nation' programme on the channel. The Radia tapes is seen to have also made a dent in the image of the media in the country. "The complete blackout of the Nira Radia tapes by the entire broadcast media and most of the major English newspapers paints a truer picture of corruption in the country," wrote G Sampath, the deputy editor of the Daily News and Analysis (DNA) newspaper. After it became an international news, more and more media houses covered the story. The Deccan Chronicle commented, "The 'Radia tapes' may have torn the veil off the nexus between information hungry journalists, lobbyists and industrialists, and opened everyone’s eyes to what has long been suspected — the ability of a small but powerful group to use their connections to influence policy." The largest circulated English newspaper in India and the world, The Times of India finally opened up on 25 November 2010, commenting "The people are showing who the boss is. The weapon in their hands is the internet, ... has seen frantic activism against "power brokering" by journalists in collusion with corporate groups and top government politicians..."
Protests and developments
Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi, and others have refuted the allegations. Open Magazine maintained that the conversations were carried as they appeared in the recordings. Dutt defended her reputation through her Twitter account. "Struck by the bizarre irony of being accused of favouring a man i have never met (raja) and have always attacked in print and on TV. Gnite!," she said via one of her tweets on Twitter.
New Delhi Television Limited posted a strong rebuttal on its website terming the insinuation that Barkha lobbied for A Raja as "unsubstantiated, baseless and defamatory" and threatened action against Open Magazine.
Hindustan Times cited Sanghvi's clarifications on his website, and stated that the authenticity of these transcripts cannot be ascertained. Vinod Mehta wrote opposition leader Arun Jaitley said Barkha Dutt pleaded to him not to mention about the conversation in the parliament while attacking the government on the 2G Scam.
On 26 November 2010, Barkha Dutt released a detailed statement, addressing questions raised by the tapes, which she claims were edited.
On 27 November 2010, Vir Sanghvi released a detailed statement, clarifying his role.
Nira Radia has served a legal notice on The Pioneer, on the report titled "Tapped and Trapped" published by the newspaper. The notice asserted that The Pioneer's report regarding corruption and manipulation in the allotment of 2G spectrum to telecom operators, in so far as it referred to Radia's connections with Telecom Minister A Raja, are "absolutely false, baseless and malicious and constitute gross defamation".
The original tapes are now annexures in a Supreme Court petition seeking Raja’s prosecution. The opposition parties in India have demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the 2G spectrum scam, which could also to be extended to include a probe into the Radia tapes to ascertain the media's role in the controversy. The Government is also accused of selectively releasing merely 10 hours of the 2000 hours recorded of the Radia tapes.
The CBI in its affidavit in the Supreme Court in the 2G spectrum allocation case, on 22 November 2010, had stated that Radia will be approached for investigation at an appropriate time. and that the probe would be completed latest by March 2011. On 24 November 2010, Nira Radia was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials and recorded her statements in relation to the 2G scam probe.
On 1 August 2013 Supreme court asked whether the Income Tax department had informed the authorities which had directed the tapping of former corporate lobbyist Niira Radia’s telephone about the sensitive and serious nature of the conversations.The Supreme court also asked whether the Income Tax department had informed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) about the criminality of certain matters that surfaced from the conversations.Chief Minister Madhu Koda asking for money from Tata Steel to issue a licence; lobbyist Niira Radia pulling strings with DMK politicians to help Tata Motors secure a contract; ex-telecom regulator Pradeep Baijal getting a plum post-retirement job; Reliance Industries' cosy relationship with the regulator; Reliance Communications of the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group fudging records – these allegations are among the 16 "issues" the CBI has red-flagged to the Supreme Court as evidence of alleged "criminality or irregularity" in intercepted phone conversations of lobbyist Niira Radia.This list, which re-opens the Radia controversy, was turned over to the apex court after it pushed the CBI into listening to all the 5,800 conversations tapped by the Income-Tax department rather than only those related to the 2G case as it did earlier. It prompted the judges to remark earlier this week that there are middlemen in "every nook and corner" of the government.The CBI has indicated that Radia herself is directly involved in only one of these cases which is listed as item number 1. It wants to probe four more and refer the others to state governments, CVOs of ministries and one to SEBI. It claims that intercepts also indicate a payoff to a former judge and a five-star swimming pool membership for a top law officer of the government but calls these "hearsay", and wants the Supreme Court to issue further directions.
Summary of CBI Report
The key issues based on intercepted conversations, as reportedly summarised by the CBI:
- Bus contract with Tamil Nadu: Ravi Kant, a top functionary of Tata Motors, was in touch with Radia for her to use her proximity with politicians in the DMK to secure the contract. Other conversations indicate tough competition between Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland and that complaints were sent to the state government on allegations of irregularities in orders. The CBI says it would be proper to refer this matter to the DGP of Tamil Nadu.
- Pradeep Baijal: Former chief of TRAI Baijal joined Noesis, a Niira Radia lobbying company. Phonetaps reveal he was then appointed Chairman of the Pipeline Advisory Committee of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board by the Government. Radia lobbied for RIL suggesting that this could be a case of ``some conflict of interest. The CBI wants to do a "thorough" inquiry.
- Madhu Koda: Rs 1.50 billion was allegedly demanded by Koda, then Jharkhand Chief Minister, for granting iron ore mine licence to the Tatas at Ankua. Tata Steel refused to pay and tried to get the licence through the Governor (Syed Sibte Razi) when the state was under President's rule. However since the licence was put on hold, the agency has asked for the matter to be referred to the Jharkhand DGP.
- Corruption and malpractice in judiciary/tribunals: The tapes reportedly contain allegations against some members of the judiciary and tribunals. One intercept is about a member of Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal apparently ruling in favour of a corporate. There are conversations concerning a real estate issue in which a "favourable judgement was given by a High Court judge after allegedly receiving a Rs 9-crore payoff. Another conversation is understood to be about fixing a complimentary membership to a five-star swimming pool for a top law officer of the Government. The agency names the judge and the officer but these names are withheld in this report because the CBI says these allegations could be categorised as ``hearsay and the Supreme Court may like to pass suitable orders as deemed fit.
- Anil Ambani's Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project: Company was allegedly allowed to use excess coal from the mines for other projects of the company and this was challenged by rivals. Calling for a deeper CBI probe also into the role of Coal Ministry officials, the agency has noted that the CAG has also questioned this allotment and had said it caused substantial loss to the Government exchequer.
- RIL-regulator link: Former DG (Hydrocarbons) V K Sibal faced a CVC inquiry into the ownership of a flat in Mumbai as well as into favours extended to him by Reliance Industries Limited. In 2009, the CBI registered two PEs (preliminary inquiries) and one RC (regular case) against Sibal. The agency says the relevant telephone transcripts should be sent to their unit handling the Sibal cases.
- Fudging: "Fudged records and customer data were submitted by ADAG's Reliance Communications to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and the Bombay Stock Exchange which is alleged to have caused a loss to the Government exchequer to the tune of Rs 4.50 billion. This "appears to be a serious issue and requires a through CBI probe, the agency has reportedly told the court.
- Middlemen in aviation: CBI has named Ramesh Nambiar and Deepak Talwar as working actively in the aviation sector and reportedly wants to scrutinise seat-sharing arrangements by Air India and other Middle Eastern airlines. It has suggested that Talwar be put on the agency's UCM (undesirable contact men) list and the matter be referred to the Ministry of Civil Aviation's Chief Vigilance Officer.
- Iron ore mines to ADAG: One conversation has a reference to the allotment of an iron ore mine to ADAG without them having a steel plant but the CBI adds that since it is a "vague" conversation without specific details, it would be proper to refer it to the CVO in the Mines Ministry.
- Unitech-ADAG rivalry: Conversations indicating manipulation of markets and stocks but this could be "part of the corporate rivalry" between ADAG and Unitech. The matter should be referred to SEBI for suitable action, says the CBI.The CBI then lists three cases which it says have been dealt with "in detail" during investigations into the 2G spectrum allocation case. In three other cases it calls for no action saying there is neither specific evidence nor any allegation.
- Transcripts : The Radia Tapes contains all the leaked audio transcripts between corporate lobbyist Nira Radia and other high profile people
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- http://bhadas4media.com/article-comment/7449-2010-11-20-02-28-02.html Article by Amitabh Thakur
- Until Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi resign, boycott NDTV & Hindustan Times?
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