CBI under pressure not to act against Mittal and delaying charge sheet: CPIL

The Supreme Court on Thursday indicated that it would consider on November 19 the plea of the Centre for Public Interest Litigation for a thorough probe into the allegation that excess spectrum was allocated to Sunil Bharti Mittal of Bharti Airtel.

Earlier, counsel Prashant Bhushan told a Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and K.S. Radhakrishnan that pursuant to a court order the Central Bureau of Investigation probed the spectrum scam covering the period 2001-2007.

“The Investigating Officer found a loss of Rs 508.22 crore to the government thanks to an active role played by Mr. Sunil Bharti Mittal in connivance with the then Telecom Minister, the late Pramod Mahajan, and Shyamal Ghosh, Secretary Telecom (retired). The IO found that undue haste was shown on January 31, 2002 by the Minister and the Telecom Secretary to favour Mr. Mittal in boosting investments in his company through the IPO [Initial Public Offering], which was open [from January 28 to February 2, 2002] but did not receive encouraging response. The criterion for allocation of further spectrum was reduced from 9 lakh to 4 lakh subscribers, as only Bharti had met that lower stipulation by that time.

Accordingly, the IO rightly recommended the filing of a charge sheet against the accused including Shri Mittal.

However, the Director of Prosecution (DoP) and his junior Special Public Prosecutor have opposed the IO’s report. The Director of the CBI has not taken any position on the issue of Mr. Mittal and has sought legal opinion using the excuse of ‘difference of opinion’. They are under pressure not to act against Mr. Mittal, and are delaying the filing of the charge sheet, counsel alleged.

K.K. Venugopal, counsel for the CBI, said there was a difference of opinion between the two wings of the agency on filing the charge sheet against the accused named in the FIR [filed on November 17, 2011] and therefore the matter was referred to Attorney general G.E. Vahanvati.

Justice Singhvi wanted to know why the CBI was seeking the AG’s opinion when the government had appointed a special public prosecutor for the 2G case.

(The FIR was filed against Mr. Shyamal Ghosh; senior DDG, DoT, J.R. Gupta; Bharti Cellular Ltd, Delhi; Vodafone Essar Ltd, Mumbai; Vodafone Essar Mobile, Delhi, and certain unknown officials of the DoT and others.)

Meanwhile, the Bench wanted the Centre to explain why it was not auctioning all spectrum vacated following the February 2 court order cancelling all 122 licences.

Justice Singhvi said: “All spectrum after the cancellation of the licences must be auctioned.”

After the licences were cancelled, 514 MHz of spectrum was made available, but the government decided to auction only half of it and this was questioned in two petitions. The Bench did not stay the auction scheduled for November 12 and directed that the matter be listed for further hearing on Friday.

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