What’s Ratan Tata got to hide? That’s a question doing the rounds in both the news and gossip circuit. And this began last fortnight when Outlook magazine managed to get hold of classified telephonic intercepts and published extracts from the CD of Nira Radia’s, phone conversations taped by the Income Tax department. It then put up the 140 conversations on its website. The transcripts were a part of evidence in the 2G spectrum scam that had cost the state exchequer thousands of crores of rupees and also cost former Telecom minister A. Raja his job.
Some of the conservations that hit the light of the day included those between Ratan Tata and Radia. And that became the bane of a controversy that has landed straight up to the Supreme Court. A highly upset and fuming Ratan Tata immediately moved the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the unauthorised publication of telephone intercepts. Tata pleaded for the protection of his privacy and a restraining of the unauthorised publication of transcripts of the telephone intercepts.
In response the Supreme Court issued a notice to the home ministry, the finance ministry, the Central Board of Direct Taxes and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The court also issued notice to Outlook and Open magazines which have published parts of transcripts of the taped conversations. All the six respondents have been given 10 days' time to file their reply. The next hearing is slated for Dec 13. A clear picture will emerge then.
So who is Nira Radia? Officially she is a PR person and owns an advertisement agency called Vaishnavi that handles the entire accounts of the 90-odd Tata group companies. Unofficially, she was known as the lady with clout, who could make or break deals as a consequence of her connections with the powers that be across all parties and bureaucratic dynamics. She was known as a person who could effectively “get things done”. But now she is in trouble with every agency including the CBI, the Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax department hot on her heels.
As regards Ratan Tata, neither he nor his companies need an introduction. His personal integrity and reputation are impeccable and no right minded person would ever conceive or accuse him of any wrong doing. After reading the conversations between him and Nira Radia the picture is clear. There is not an iota of evidence or even a hint of any below the belly manipulation on the corporate front. It is simply ordinary conversation between a corporate head and his public relations consultant… simply put it was an update on information doing the rounds.
So why is Ratan Tata upset? In my nearly three decades as business journalist, I have never seen or even heard of this gentleman extraordinaire display any emotion or behavior that would not behove him on the corporate stage. In my opinion Ratan Tata’s got nothing to hide. His reaction is perhaps, as a consequence to an infringement into his personal life, the violation of his privacy. And that he has every right to uphold.