In a blistering attack on Communications Minister Kapil Sibal for saying that the audit report on auction of second generation (2G) telecom spectrum was erroneous, senior Supreme Court counsel Prashant Bhushan Saturday said that it amounted to largely giving a clean chit to his disgraced predecessor A. Raja.
DMK leader Raja had to step down in November 2010 following allegations that second generation spectrum was sold to telecom companies at below market prices, causing huge losses to the government. Raja has denied charges of wrongdoing.
Bhushan said that Sibal’s statement showed ‘the extent to which he is willing to go to defend the government and telecom companies, many of which were his clients and now his son’s clients’.
‘This also shows the conflict of interest in the telecom ministry and he should have never been given the charge of it,’ said Bhushan, who led the legal battle seeking the apex court monitoring of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) investigations into the scam.
‘This shows the attitude of Sibal who appears to be batting for the telecom companies,’ he said.
Assailing Sibal, Bhushan said: ‘For him (Sibal) to say that the expansion of network means no loss to the government is falsified by the fact that the original companies (which were allocated 2G spectrum) sold their companies at huge profits to new companies which paid much more and are now offering the services.’
Sibal Friday questioned the methodology adopted by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in arriving at the conclusion that the allocation of 2G spectrum in 2008 at 2001 prices caused the public exchequer a loss of Rs.1.76 lakh crores.
The minister said that the losses presumably suffered by the government were ‘utterly erroneous and without any basis’.
The apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice A.K. Ganguly in their Dec 16, 2010 order said: ‘The CBI shall conduct thorough investigation into various issues in the report of the central vigilance Commission… who have prima facie found serious irregularities in the grant of licences to 122 applicants.’
The court said a majority of applicants were said to be ineligible and asked the CBI to inquire into the blatant violation of the terms and conditions of licences and the huge loss to the public exchequer running into several thousand crores (of rupees).
The court said that ‘the CBI should also probe as to how licences were granted to large number of ineligible applicants and who was responsible for the same’.
The jugdes asked the probe agency to inquire why the telecom regulator and the department of telecommunications did not take action against those licencees who sold their stakes or equities and also against those who failed to comply with the conditions of the licence.