A combative Communications Minister Kapil Sibal on Thursday refused to accept that the Supreme Court judgment cancelling 122 telecom licences issued in 2008 was an indictment of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.
The Minister, instead, put the blame on the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government and on the former Telecom Minister, A. Raja, “who did not heed the good advice” of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the former Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram. The government welcomed the ruling, the Minister said adding it would help remove “uncertainty” that was hurting the telecom sector.
Mr. Sibal, who was addressing a press conference after having discussed the judgment with Dr. Singh, kept the focus on the NDA's “flawed” and “discriminatory” policy. “If there is any indictment, it is of the 2003 [first come, first served] policy framed by the BJP government in 2003…we only followed it,” he said.
Neither Dr. Singh nor Mr. Chidambaram was, in any way, responsible for the 2G scam. “The Supreme Court has clearly said that the then Telecom Minister [Mr. Raja] did not heed the good advice of both Dr. Singh and the Finance Minister. There was problem in implementation of the policy … that is why he [Mr. Raja] is where he is,” Mr. Sibal said.
Notably, Mr. Raja on Thursday completed one year in jail after his arrest.
Asked what lessons the government had learnt from the judgment, Mr. Sibal said: “Whichever [way] the Minister is functioning, [he] must consult everybody ... and not commit any irregularity.” Mr. Raja was found guilty of committing irregularities, he said, but he asserted that he was not blaming Mr. Raja or the UPA ally, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. “The DMK is our valued ally and they will continue to be so.”
Asked about his “zero loss” theory, Mr. Sibal said: “There was no option of auction. If the policy was right in 2008, then there was no loss … and if the policy is faulty, then you will have to calculate losses from October 2003 onward when the policy was implemented.”
The government would abide by the apex court judgment, which had brought about clarity and ended confusion that had brought the telecom sector to a standstill. “But now the road map is clear. The telecom sector was crying for investment … it would lead to more FDI [foreign direct investment].”
Referring to his Ministry's future course of action, he said the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India would give its recommendations and auction the spectrum. “What the court has ordered is consistent to our [new] policy [currently being finalised] that recommends delinking spectrum from licences