There was no coordination with defence Ministry before allocation, CBI says

Additional spectrum beyond 6.2 Mhz was allotted during the late Telecom Minister Pramod Mahajan’s tenure to cellular operators Airtel, Vodafone and Idea without due coordination with Defence agencies, the CBI has claimed in a probe report.

In its report to the Law Ministry, the CBI also claimed that Mahajan, who was the telecom minister during the BJP-led NDA rule, had apparently told “half truth” to then defence minister George Fernandes that additional spectrum upto 8 Mhz to cellular operators was assigned only after due coordination with Joint Communication and Electronic Staff (JCES).

The report which was sent to Law Ministry seeking opinion of the Attorney General whether a criminal case was made out against the accused companies, mentions exchange of communication between the then Ministers Mahajan and Fernandes over the issue of grant of additional spectrum and coordination with Defence Services.

In a letter to Mahajan on July 4, 2002, Mr Fernandes had flagged the issue of co-ordination of frequency spectrum with the Defence Services, CBI sources said on Thursday.

They said the letter was purportedly received by Mahajan’s office after 15 days and by that time additional spectrum had already been allocated to Bharti Cellular and Sterling Cellular (now Vodafone) in Delhi and Hutch in Mumbai.

CBI sources said Mr Fernandes had written that Telecom Ministry had gone ahead by receiving spectrum fees/charges from the new cellular operators without proper coordination on a case-to-case and place to place at many locations.

Mahajan in his reply to Mr Fernandes said frequencies had been assigned only after coordination with the defence services.

“The facts, however, show that it was half truth. The DoT actually wrote to JCES that it was going to allocate spectrum on trial basis in a few days and if no response was received from JCES that spectrum would be allocated to respective companies,” CBI claimed in its report.

The CBI claimed that investigation had revealed that the additional spectrum beyond 6.2 Mhz was allotted to the companies even without due coordination by the JCES.

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