CBI registers FIR; conducts searches
Bringing the then BJP-led National Democratic Alliance rule under its scanner, the CBI on Saturday registered a fresh case of alleged irregularities in 2G spectrum allocation when BJP leader, the late Pramod Mahajan, was Telecom Minister between 2001 and 2003.
In its first information report (FIR), the CBI has named the former Telecom Secretary, Shyamal Ghosh; the former Deputy Director-General of the Department of Telecom, J.R. Gupta, and leading telecom companies Airtel and Vodafone. The telecom giants were then known as Bharti Cellular [now Bharti Airtel]; Hutchison Max [now Vodafone Essar] and Sterling Cellular [now Vodafone Essar].
Soon after registering the FIR, the agency scurried its teams to conduct searches in the offices of Vodafone in Mumbai and Delhi, and Bharti Airtel in Gurgaon. The CBI teams also searched the residences of Mr. Ghosh and Mr. Gupta.
During the monitoring of the 2G case involving the former Telecom Minister, A. Raja, the Supreme Court, on December 16, 2010, directed the CBI to investigate the alleged irregularities committed in the grant of licences from 2001 to 2007, with emphasis on the loss caused to the public exchequer and corresponding gain to the licensees/service providers.
Accordingly, the CBI registered a preliminary enquiry (PE) in January 2011, its spokesperson Dharini Mishra said. The CBI has estimated the loss due to the alleged irregularities in the grant of additional 2G spectrum at Rs.508 crore during 2001-07. This is the second FIR in this PE after a case was registered against another former Telecom Minister, Dayanidhi Maran, in the Aircel-Maxis deal.
The CBI registered the case under Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code along with Sections 13 (2), 13 (1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, against the then Chairman of the Telecom Commission and the then Telecom Secretary, the then DDG and three private cellular companies. Pramod Mahajan has been excluded after he died.
It was alleged in the FIR that the then Secretary (Telecom) and the then DDG, DoT, entered into a criminal conspiracy with three beneficiary private companies, based in Delhi and Mumbai, and abused their official position as public servants.
The agency alleged that during Mahajan's tenure, Mr. Ghosh and some other officials gave additional spectrum at low revenue share to telecom giants like Vodafone and Bharti Airtel. It is also alleged that the public servants, with the approval of the Minister, took an alleged “hurried decision” on January 31, 2002 to allocate additional spectrum beyond 6.2 MHz in violation of the report of a DoT technical committee.
The accused also decided to “allocate such additional spectrum beyond 6.2 MHz by charging spectrum fee of an incremental one per cent AGR (Adjusted Gross Revenue) only for allotting additional spectrum from 6.2 MHz up to 10 MHz instead of charging incremental one per cent AGR on allotment of spectrum beyond 6.2 MHz and charging incremental two per cent AGR on allotment of spectrum beyond 8 MHz, as applicable in normal prudence.”