ADDITIONAL 2G SPECTRUM ALLOCATION

Attorney-General Goolam Vahanvati has said that the available evidence needs to be examined to take a call on whether or not to prosecute Vodafone India along with Bharti Airtel in the case relating to alleged irregularities in allocating additional 2G spectrum in 2002.

The AG has declined to comment on the views of the Director, Central Bureau of Investigation, on whether or not to prosecute Sunil Mittal, Chairman of Bharti Airtel.

DIfference of opinion

In his opinion given last week, Vahanvati had said he would give his views only on issues where there is a difference of opinion between Director of Prosecution and Director, CBI.

While the Director of Prosecution had named Mittal in his report saying the Airtel chief had met the then Telecom Minister, the late Pramod Mahajan, he added that such meetings can be looked at only if there is evidence of any record of the meeting indicating any criminal intent of the parties.

According to him, a meeting by the corporate lobby with higher ups in the Government cannot be termed ‘criminal intent’.

The CBI Director had also taken a similar view, stating there was no evidence on record suggesting any misrepresentation of facts by Mittal.

Taking cognisance of the two reports, the Attorney-General said “There is no disagreement on this point between Director of Prosecution and the Director, CBI and, therefore, it is not for me to comment on the views of the executive officers of the CBI.”

The issue dates back to 2002, when GSM operators were given additional spectrum beyond 4.4 Mhz on subscriber-based criteria.

Under this, policy operators could seek more spectrum as and when they reached a specified number of subscribers, without any additional upfront fee. CBI has alleged that this policy benefited Bharti Airtel the most as it was the first company to qualify for additional spectrum based on the set subscriber milestones.

CBI has also named Shyamal Ghosh, former secretary, Department of Telecom, in its report.

Mittal’s role

The AG was asked to give an opinion on whether or not to prosecute Sunil Mittal and whether other mobile operators including Hutchison Max (now Vodafone India) can also be prosecuted for benefiting from the spectrum policy.

In the question related to Mittal, the AG declined comment as the CBI officers had agreed that there was no case. On the Vodafone issue, the AG has said that all evidence needs to be examined before the company can be prosecuted.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has asked the CBI to take action in accordance with the views expressed by the Director, CBI.

Thomas.thomas@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on December 2, 2012)
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