The job of GoM led by me was vacation of spectrum, he says

Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday rejected suggestions that he had anything to do with the pricing of 2G spectrum and hit out at those spreading “disinformation” on the issue.

In 2007, when he was the External Affairs Minister, Mr. Mukherjee was appointed chairman of a Group of Ministers (GoM) on vacation of 3G spectrum. This, he said, had nothing to do with 2G and its pricing.

The GoM was for vacation of spectrum by the defence and paramilitary forces and the Communication Ministry for mobile telephony and other issues. Pricing was not part of the mandate of the GoM, he said.

“In a nutshell, I had nothing to do with 2G,” he told PTI.

The job of the GoM was on vacation of the spectrum and “how can you bring pricing and other things [of 2G spectrum] here,” Mr. Mukherjee asked.

“So far as pricing and other things are concerned, it was not part of the mandate of the GoM,” he emphasised.

The terms of reference of the GoM were changed at the insistence of the nodal Ministry and how could anyone conclude there was manipulation of pricing, he wondered, referring to reports that he had been aware of such manipulation.

In November 2007, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked Mr. Mukherjee to apprise himself of the issues raised by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) and GSM operators challenging the criteria for allocation of additional GSM spectrum.

The issues had been raised with the then Telecom Minister, A. Raja, and the then Solicitor-General, G.E. Vahanvati, in the context of proceedings pending in the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).

Mr. Mukherjee said that in this context he held a meeting with Mr. Raja and Mr. Vahanvati in the first week of December 2007.

Mr. Vahanvati had explained that the existing operators were insisting on allocation of additional GSM spectrum on the basis of March 2006 guidelines which they contended were adequate.

There was no substance in this contention in view of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India recommending revised criteria which were stricter.

Mr. Vahanvati had explained to him that as per the directions of the TDSAT, an affidavit was filed in November 2007 indicating the way forward.

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