The former Telecom Secretary and key accused in 2G case, Siddharth Behura’s deposition before the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Tuesday offered some contradictions while revealing many new names. Mr. Behura seemed to agree with the former Telecom Minister, A. Raja, in general terms but opposed him on specific transgressions which eventually led to the manipulation of the first come, first served process of allocation of licences.
While admitting that distribution of licences within one hour was “unusual,” Mr. Behura said he was not aware of this as it was done at the level of the Minister (Mr. Raja). Mr. Behura blamed the processing of ineligible applications on junior officers, additionally denying responsibility for the DoT notification advancing the cut-off date. In November 2010, the CAG, in its 2G report, stated that 85 of the 122 Letters of Intent were granted to ineligible applicants, describing their access to spectrum as “fraudulent.” Mr. Behura said he had never met previous DoT Secretary D.S. Mathur for a briefing.
Asked why the crucial January 9, 2008 full Telecom Commission meeting — which had listed spectrum pricing as a key agenda item just one day before the scam — was cancelled, Mr. Behura claimed this was because the report for the meeting was not ready.
Justice Shivraj Patil, who investigated the 2G scam at the behest of Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal, in his report of January 2011, has stated that no meeting of the full TC took place for nearly five months between the receipt of the TRAI’s recommendations of August 28, 2007 and issuance of 122 LoIs on January 10, 2008. The full TC meeting was eventually held on January 15, 2008 with a diluted agenda that excluded spectrum pricing.
Though the JPC is yet to decide on the final witness list of political leaders, Mr. Behura’s disclosures now make it difficult to keep Mr. Raja out. Further, junior officers such as the then DDG, A.K. Srivastav, Director Nitin Jain and R.K. Gupta, who reviewed the applications in the DoT’s Access Services cell, may now need to be added to the witness list, especially since these officers disqualified nearly 108 applications on various grounds, but failed to apply the same measure of scrutiny to detect 85 ineligible ones. These 85 ineligible applications belong to firms like Unitech (Uninor), Swan Telecom (Etisalat DB), Loop (Essar), Allianz Infratech (bought by Swan), Datacom (Videocon) and S Tel.