The former Telecom Secretary, D.S. Mathur, on Saturday claimed that Telecom Minister A. Raja had ignored his advice for auctioning 2G spectrum, but the Ministry hit back saying the official had cleared the files for issuing licenses as per the existing policy.
Mr. Mathur, now retired and settled in Bhopal, claimed he had recommended that spectrum be auctioned to ensure transparency.
“I had also said that the spectrum was limited, and therefore, only limited number of licences can be given,” Mr. Mathur told PTI.
However, Ministry sources contest his claim. Internal documents show Mr. Mathur's signature on files which say that applications up to the cut-off date of September 25, 2007 can be processed for issuing licences and spectrum.
Bone of contention
The order, the sources said, made clear that any further applications should be dealt with later.
The cut-off date became a bone of contention, triggering accusations of favouritism at the cost of the exchequer.
“In order to avoid any legal implications of cut-off date, all the applications received till the announcement of the cut-off date in the press, i.e., 25-09-2007 may be processed as per the existing policy, and decision on remaining applications may be taken subsequently,” the file noting said.
Asked about this noting, Mr. Mathur said: “...This was subsequent to the decision that was already taken with regard to processing applications till 25-09-2007.”
Mr. Raja has been in the eye of the storm after the Comptroller and Auditor-General said the non-auction of the 2G spectrum might have caused a revenue loss of up to Rs. 1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer.
Mr. Mathur, however, refused to comment on how all the new players or 121 licencees were given start-up spectrum of 4.4 Mhz within a few weeks of being allocated licences.
“How did he [Mr. Raja] do it, I have no idea. So, I cannot comment on it,” Mr. Mathur said, adding that there was not enough spectrum to accommodate too many applications.
Cartel broken: Raja
Mr. Raja has been claiming that he managed to break the cartel of telecom players and give 2G spectrum to new players to bring in competition that resulted in massive growth in the sector, besides lowering of tariffs.