Former Telecom Secretary D.S. Mathur on Thursday denied in a Delhi court, hearing the 2G spectrum scam case, that he had “misled” ex-Telecom Minister A. Raja in 2007 on the issue of availability of spectrum.
Testifying as a prosecution witness before Special CBI Judge O.P. Saini, Mr. Mathur said he had endorsed the proposal of A.K. Srivastava, Deputy Director-General in the Department of Telecom (DoT), on announcement of cut-off date for receiving new applications for the Unified Access Services Licences (UASL).
“It is wrong to suggest that I misled A. Raja, the then Telecom Minister, Ministry of Communication and Technology (MOC&IT), by endorsing the proposal of Srivastava without assessing the spectrum availability.
“It is wrong to suggest that I did not assess the spectrum availability because I thought that it was not necessary,” he said.
Mr. Mathur said that being the Telecom Secretary, he did not approve Mr. Srivastava’s proposal as it was to be done by Mr. Raja.
“I did not approve the proposal of A.K. Srivastava as the same was to be done by the Minister, I just agreed with him. I did not discuss with A.K. Srivastava or Member (Telecom) before agreeing with Srivastava.
“It is correct that the file went to the then Minister only after I agreed with the note of A.K. Srivastava,” he said.
Mr. Mathur, during his cross examination by senior counsel Sushil Kumar, appearing for Mr. Raja, said as per Mr. Srivastava’s note, 167 applications for grant of UASL were received by the DoT by then and the reason behind fixing a cut-off date was the difficulty in handling such a large number of applications.
“I am not aware if adequate spectrum was available on the date of the (Srivastava’s) note for accommodating these applications (for UASL),” he said.
During his cross examination, which would also continue on Friday, Mr. Mathur said as per the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s recommendations in 2007, 2G spectrum of 800, 900 and 1800 MHz band was not recommended to be auctioned in view of “the legacy and for ensuring level playing field”.
During the recording of statement, Mr. Mathur was shown his letter of April 2, 2007, regarding terms of reference of Group of Ministers (GoM) on vacation of spectrum.
“It is mentioned in this letter that the then Minister, MOC&IT, D. Maran had written a letter to the Prime Minister for amendment of terms of reference. I had seen the letter of Maran to the PM on the subject.
“It is correct that in response to the aforesaid letter of D. Maran, the Cabinet Secretariat had issued an order amending the terms of reference and taking out spectrum pricing from its terms of reference,” he said adding an order was issued by the Cabinet Secretariat regarding revised terms of reference of the GoM on December 7, 2006.
Mr. Mathur said he had told D. Subbarao, the then Finance Secretary, that “spectrum pricing is the continuing responsibility of DoT and it is neither necessary nor feasible to include that in terms of reference”.
He said DoT, being the licensor, has a right to amend terms and conditions of UASL as stated in the December 14, 2005, guidelines.
Mr. Mathur said when he took charge as Telecom Secretary, the DoT had already announced the guidelines to the effect that foreign direct investment (FDI) in the telecom industry may be up to 74 per cent.
He said the processing of applications for UASL started after TRAI recommendations were received on August 29, 2007, and the decision taken thereof by the government in November 2007.