‘There was undue haste shown in 2002 by Telecom Minister to favour Mittal’
The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to proceed further as per its Director's decision of proceeding against telecom companies and individuals in a case relating to alleged irregularities in allocation of additional spectrum when Pramod Mahajan was Telecom Minister during the NDA regime.
A Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and K.S. Singhvi gave the nod to the CBI after perusing the status report of the CBI relating to the opinion given by Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati on proceeding against the telecom companies and certain individuals pursuant to registration of a First Information Report in November 2011.
The Bench told senior counsel K.K. Venugopal, appearing for the CBI, to initiate action as per the opinion of the Director, even as counsel told the court that the Director was due to demit office on Friday.
On the directions of the Supreme Court, the CBI started a probe into the spectrum scam for the period 2001 to 2007. After the investigation, the CBI filed an FIR on November 17, 2011 against Shyamal Ghosh, Telecom Secretary; J.R. Gupta, Senior DDG, DoT; Bharti Cellular Ltd, Delhi; Vodafone Essar Ltd, Mumbai; Vodafone Essar Mobile, Delhi; and unknown officials of the DoT and others.
The Centre for Public Interest Litigation filed an application, alleging inaction by the CBI. It said during the investigation, the Investigating Officer found a loss of Rs. 508.22 crore to the government with active role played by Mr. Sunil Bharti Mittal of Bharti Airtel in connivance with the former Minister late Pramod Mahajan and Shyamal Ghosh, Secretary Telecom (Retired). The officer found that there was undue haste shown on January 31, 2002 in this matter by the Telecom Minister and Telecom Secretary to favour Mr. Mittal to boost the investments in his company through the IPO which was open (from January 28, 2002 to February 2, .2002) but did not receive encouraging response and needed positive news on spectrum. The criteria for allocation of further spectrum was reduced from 9 lakh subscribers to 4 lakh subscribers, as only Bharti had met that criteria by that time. Accordingly, the officer rightly recommended filing of charge sheet against the accused, including Mr. Mittal. The said report was accepted by the IO. However, the Director of Prosecution and his junior Special PP have opposed the report. The CBI Director has not taken any position on the issue of Mr. Mittal and has sought legal opinion using the excuse of “difference of opinion.” Since there was a difference of opinion between the two wings of the CBI on filing of the charge sheet against the accused named in the FIR, the matter was referred to the Attorney general for his opinion.
Meanwhile, the present Director took a decision to prosecute some companies and officials. The AG gave his opinion, which was submitted to the court in a sealed cover. The Bench, after perusing this, asked the CBI to proceed further in accordance with the CBI Director’s decision.