How the policy was implemented by successive Ministers is the focus

Five months into the preliminary inquiry (PE) relating to the allocation of 2G spectrum during 2001-07, the Central Bureau of Investigation is busy scrutinising documents, looking at the telecom policy and how the policy was implemented by successive Telecom Ministers during that time.

On a Supreme Court direction, the CBI registered a PE in January to facilitate a probe into the 2G spectrum allocation during the period. "We are examining the telecom policy and whether there were any violations in its implementation. We are also looking at whether there was any ulterior motive in the implementation of the policy as well as any quid pro quo while granting licences or any element of criminality was there," sources in the CBI said on Friday.

The agency was also looking at how many licences were issued and which companies got them. The agency is also talking to “relevant” persons and examining documents to ascertain whether the PE could be converted into a regular case. "The PE is really not strictly divided into periods of any particular Minister. We are looking at key issues and if the FIR is registered, it will be based on such issues," the sources said. Apart from the Telecom policy during 2001-07, the agency is also looking at directions given by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and whether these were followed or not.

The PE has facilitated the investigative agency to probe the telecom policy formulated by the previous NDA government, which demitted office in May 2004, and whether a clutch of telecom players benefited from it. The former Telecom Minister, A. Raja, who is now lodged in Delhi's Tihar jail, had been maintaining that he merely followed the policy pursued by the Vajpayee government in allocating the 2G licences. A PE is meant to explore the possibility of registering a full-fledged regular case on the basis of information and evidence gathered during the inquiry.

While 42 licences, including those for basic services and Unified Access Service (UAS), were issued during 2001, as many as 51 licences were given during 2004-06. Telecom Ministers during 2001-07 were the late Pramod Mahajan and Arun Shourie during the NDA regime and Dayanidhi Maran and Mr. Raja were in charge of the Telecom portfolio from 2004 onwards when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance assumed power.

Ambit of the probe

The Supreme Court, in its December 16, 2010 order, directed the investigation into the 2G spectrum scam from 2001 to 2007. The probe also covers dual technology — CDMA and GSM. The court had earlier asked the CBI to state whether the ambit of its probe into the 2G scam should be widened to include what had happened in 2001 during the NDA regime when the "first come, first served" policy was adopted as the basis for allocating spectrum. The court, however, gave liberty to the CBI to register another FIR on the alleged irregularities, if any, committed during the BJP-led NDA regime in 2001. The present FIR in the 2G scam was registered by the CBI on October 21, 2009 against "unnamed persons" under the Prevention of Corruption Act. However, it was only after the Supreme Court began monitoring the probe that the CBI investigation picked up momentum and the action-oriented approach of the premier agency started showing results. The CBI is scheduled to file the progress report on the 2G scam probe in the Supreme Court on July 6.