The acquittal of DMK leaders A Raja and M Kanimozhi, and all the others accused in the sensational "2G Scam" by a CBI court today is one of the most significant juridical events in independent India because it demolishes the reputation of a constitutional institution called the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and makes the Congress and the UPA look like victims of either a political conspiracy or foolhardiness of administrative vigilantism.
Either way, the UPA, particularly the Congress and the DMK will feel both vindicated and sad because it was this alleged scam that had brought them down politically and propelled the BJP to power.
The damage of the "scam" was unlimited because it had also led to similar allegations and the policy-paralysis of the UPA government from which it never recovered. For the DMK, it literally snatched away an assembly defeat from the jaws of victory and mired its first family in deep notoriety that its rival and former Jayalalithaa kept reminding them for years.
For the telecom sector it was a huge setback because auctions that appeared good on CAG papers proved to be counter-productive, while for foreign investors the subsequent developments made India look unreliable without any sovereign guarantee for their resources, time, and reputation.
Although the details of the voluminous order are not completely available, the message is loud and clear: that both the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) have failed to prove criminality and corruption in the case in which the accused, mainly the then telecom minister Raja had caused losses of thousands of crores of rupees to the state exchequer.
Both the UPA and DMK will now be justified in their reading of the verdict that there was no corruption as they had always maintained. Former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh summarised the sense of vindication of the Congress quite elegantly when he said that "massive agenda-driven propaganda was done at that time against UPA government and the judgment speaks for itself".
While the verdict is a lifesaver for Raja and Kanimozhi, it will slur the reputation of decorated bureaucrat and former CAG Vinod Rai. If Raja and the other accused were not scamsters, then how did he tell the nation that it lost 1.76 lakh crore of rupees because of them? Did he really brandish those mythical figures without any evidence at all? If his "presumptive loss" theory was wrong in 2G, what about his other audit findings?
While the verdict is a lifesaver for Raja and Kanimozhi, it will slur the reputation of decorated bureaucrat and former CAG Vinod Rai.
Questions will also be asked if he was motivated or acted in collusion with the opposition because "2G" was an epoch that changed the course of Indian political history and heralded the downfall of the Congress.
In fact, that's what the Congress leaders insinuated when the verdict was out today.
Former minister Kapil Sibal, who had countered Vinod Rai with his "zero-loss theory", demanded that the former CAG should apologise to the nation. He also said that the scam was woven together by Rai and the opposition.
In a tweet, Manish Tewari, another strong defender of the UPA against the scam allegations, also said that "former CAG must apologise to the nation for throwing presumptive sensational corrosive numbers into public discourse. He was the author of the imbecile 1.76 thousand crore loss theory that I had destroyed during my cross examination of Rai in JPC. Court has affirmed JPC Report".
Reportedly, the court today said that there was no material on record to show that Raja was the main conspirator, and that the many facts recorded in the charge-sheet were factually wrong.
It also said that the prosecution, which began with enthusiasm, later on became cautious, guarded and directionless. Apparently, it was not clear as to what it was trying to prove.
In fact, there were enough indications earlier that the case would be met with such a fate. Early in February, the same judge, Justice OP Saini, had acquitted the Maran brothers, who incidentally are Kanimozhi's family members, in the Aircel-Maxis case for want of evidence.
He had said that "perception or suspicion are not enough for criminal prosecution. The perception or suspicion is required to be investigated and supported by legally admissible evidence, which is wholly lacking in this case".
In September last year, Kanimozhi's lawyer also had said that there was no evidence against her.
"Read ED's case as it is and the court will come to the conclusion that there is no evidence against Kanimozhi," he had said.
Raja too had been very optimistic about the case right from the preliminary stages itself. An interesting glimpse of his confidence was presented in journalist Sunetra Choudhury's 'Behind Bars' in which she tells the prison tales of VIPs. Raja, one of the VIPs featured in the book, was completely unfazed about his life as a remand prisoner in Tihar and was quite confident that the case against him would not succeed in a court of law.
His description of how the CBI investigated the case is hilarious because contrary to what the media projected, what was going on inside their offices were quite perfunctory. He even says that the investigators didn't know what they were doing and they had even asked for his help to decipher the papers. The observations of the court today in fact confirms Raja's claims. It's not surprising that Justice Saini had "no hesitation in holding that the prosecution has miserably failed to prove the charges."
While the prosecution will appeal the verdict, it is a huge moral victory for the Congress, the UPA and the DMK. The 2G scam had inflicted life-threatening damages on them.
Certainly, they wouldn't let go of this opportunity to push back. Probably, this is the inflection point that they have been waiting for.