Courting order

The Supreme Court has reserved its verdict on a petition asking that it monitor the investigation into the 2G spectrum allocation. On Wednesday, a two-judge bench finished hearing wide-ranging arguments, including from former Telecom Minister A. Raja. Also on Wednesday, Raja's residence was raided by the CBI, while predictably the day was lost in Parliament to adjournments amidst an enduring deadlock on the opposition's demand for a joint parliamentary committee to probe the 2G case, and the government's refusal to countenance the idea. Ever since the CAG estimated losses of Rs 1.7 lakh crore to the government, compelling Raja's resignation, grandstanding has substituted for a thoughtful political debate from the opposition and, perhaps more grievously, responsive clarification and action from the executive. Only proceedings in the SC so far have taken the issue forward, bringing clarity to different dimensions of the investigation. The UPA government has just announced an inquiry by a retired judge into the country's telecom policy from 2001 to 2009. But the onus is still on the Centre to assert good faith, to show that it's willing to privilege vigilance over political point-scoring and that the processes of affixing accountability are not being ringfenced in the current political brawl. That last concern, thankfully, is being addressed in the SC. Separate petitions are before different benches of the court, including on the investigation into the 2G allocation and the appointment of P.J. Thomas, till recently secretary in Raja's telecom ministry, as Central Vigilance Commissioner. And in each, the judges have taken the issue incrementally forward to tease clarity from the authorities on where to go from here. While Thomas's appointment remains a subject for confrontation between government and opposition, the court posed the direct question to him: how could he carry credibility in overseeing the anti-corruption investigations? Thomas, while gaining a chance to plead his case, has offered to recuse himself in the telecom investigation. Weeks before the current spate of raids was launched, the court asked the CBI why Raja was not being questioned. And contextualising the scandal at hand, the court asked why the inquiry should not be deepened to reach back to 2001, as Raja made the NDA's first-come-first-served template an alibi for his record.There's a searching evident in the court's questions, an attempt to embed the issues in an appropriate frame, that's eliciting transparency from the executive. It's a fine balance for the SC, as it questions high appointments as well as executive procedures that could have far-reaching implications.

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