Additional spectrum: Court to pass order on charge on Oct 7

NCDRCA special 2G court today fixed October 7 for pronouncing its order on framing of charges in the 2002 additional spectrum allocation case in which ex-Telecom SecretaryShyamal Ghosh and three telecom firms are accused.

Special CBI judge O P Saini, who was scheduled to pass the order today, deferred it.

“The order is not ready. Put up for order on October 7,” the judge said, adding, “it may be tentative (on October 7) as the records of the case are so voluminous.”

Besides order on charges, the court would also pass the order on the bail plea of Ghosh on October 7.

Ghosh and three telecom companies — Hutchison Max(P) Ltd, Sterling Cellular Ltd and Bharti Cellular Ltd — were charge sheeted by CBI in the case relating to Department of Telecommunications (DoT) allocating additional spectrum that had allegedly led to a loss of Rs 846.44 crore to the exchequer.

Ghosh, a 1965 batch retired IAS officer, was the Telecom Secretary between February 7, 2000 and May 31, 2002.

CBI had earlier argued that Ghosh had given additional spectrum to the telecom companies at “throwaway prices” causing a huge loss to the exchequer.

Ghosh had countered CBI’s arguments, saying private firms were not the only beneficiaries of surplus radio waves, but state-run MTNL and BSNL had also benefitted.

He had claimed that it cannot be said that allocation was done primarily to benefit private companies and asserted that he had not abused his official position in any manner.

Similarly, the accused firms had also countered CBI’s loss theory, saying they were allotted “spare radio waves” which would have caused gain to the government.

In its charge sheet, CBI had alleged that Ghosh had “deliberately” and with “malafide intention” did not obtain comments of then Member (Finance) of DoT on the issue despite the matter involving huge “financial implications”.

All the accused have been charge sheeted for the alleged offence of criminal conspiracy (section 120-B) of the IPC and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

 

( Source – PTI )

Spectrum: Pleas vs 2G court’s jurisdiction dismissed

Spectrum: Pleas vs 2G court's jurisdiction dismissed
Spectrum: Pleas vs 2G court’s jurisdiction dismissed

A special 2G court today dismissed separate pleas filed by two telecom firms, which were charge sheeted in the 2002 additional spectrum allocation case challenging its jurisdiction to deal with the matter.

Special CBI Judge O P Saini also imposed the cost of Rs 25,000 each on the two telecom firms M/s Hutchison Max(P) Ltd and M/s Sterling Cellular Ltd.

“Both the applications are dismissed with a cost of Rs 25,000 each. The cost may be deposited within seven days, failing which a warrant of attachment will be issued,” the court said.

The court has now fixed August 17 for hearing arguments on charges in the case.

The firms had challenged the special court’s jurisdiction on the ground that their case did not relate to 2G spectrum scam, saying the special court was constituted to deal with matters pertaining only to 2G scam and additional spectrum case was not covered under it.

CBI had opposed the jurisdiction issue saying that the case was among the various matters being monitored by the Supreme Court in connection with the 2G scam.

The accused had argued that they never got licence in the period 2001 to 2008, which is under probe by CBI on the apex court’s direction and were already an existing licensee.

Former Telecom Secretary Shyamal Ghosh and three telecom firms — Hutchison Max, Sterling and Bharti Cellular Ltd, were chargesheeted by CBI in the case relating to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) allocating additional spectrum that had allegedly resulted in a loss of Rs 846 crore to exchequer.

The special court was earlier informed that the Supreme Court had quashed the order summoning Bharti Cellular Ltd CMD Sunil Bharti Mittal and Essar Group promoter Ravi Ruia as accused in the case.

Besides Mittal, Ruia and Ghosh, the special court had also summoned Canada-based NRI Asim Ghosh, who was then a Managing Director of Hutchison Max Pvt Ltd, as an accused.

Apex court reserves verdict on monitoring spectrum probe

The Supreme Court Wednesday reserved its verdict on a petition seeking its monitoring of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the 2G spectrum controversy.

The petition was moved by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL).

The court also expanded the scope of CBI investigation into the 2G spectrum controversy by directing it to probe the issue of banks advancing loans to telecom operators on the hypothecation of spectrum licences.

“If it is true then it is astonishing,” said an apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice A.K. Ganguly when it was told that for a Rs.1,600 crore pan-India licence of 2G spectrum, a public sector bank gave a loan of Rs.2,500 crore.

While observing that the 2G licences were far more valuable than the price at which they were given, the court said if it was true, then it went far beyond what the petitioner was claiming.The court was informed that the investigating agency was probing the sources of funds which different telecom companies mobilized for applying for 2G spectrum licences.

The court was also told that the grant of loan on the hypothecation of 2G licence would be referred to the CBI’s banking securities fraud cell.The judges said that there has to be a close co-ordination between the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to unearth the entire scandal.

They said this after going through the ED report on its investigations into money laundering related to the spectrum allocation.During the hearing, the court described as absurd the policy of granting 2G spectrum licences in 2008 at 2001 prices.

“This is an absurd policy,” the court said. It also said that to get to the root of the entire scam, the investigation should commence from 2001 when the existing telecom policy was put in place.”Why dont you give us petrol at 2001 prices, the court asked, criticising the policy.

The court said that in a period of spiraling prices, the government was engaged in a commercial transaction and was not involved in charity.Slamming the Department of Telecommunications, the court said that even if it was a policy to give licences at 2001 prices, the 2G spectrum could not have gone for a song. Even a policy has to have a meaning, it said.

The bench also noted that the existing courts which were already overburdened with work could not be further burdened to deal with cases of huge financial magnitude, including the 2G spectrum controversy, involving allegations of money laundering.

It also said there was need for special courts to deal with special laws like the one to prevent money laundering. The court asked Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium to take instructions from the government on this count.

Anybody who has violated the law and the economic interests of the country has to be brought to book, the court said.

Government not against court monitoring spectrum probe

The central government on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that it was not against the court monitoring the CBI probe into the 2G spectrum scam in whatever manner it wanted.

“(The) government has no objection to the court monitoring of the investigation as the government wants to establish its credentials,” Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam told the court.

The court said it will have to monitor the probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on a continuous basis.

2G spectrum allocation flawless, government tells apex court

The government Thursday told the Supreme Court that the department of telecommunication (DoT) acted in public interest and in pursuance of its policy decision while allocating 2G spectrum licences to telecom operators in 2008.

In an affidavit filed Thursday, the government opposed a plea of petitioner Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) that either the court should monitor the investigation into 2G Spectrum matter by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or the matter should be investigated by a special investigating team (SIT).

“The allotment process in 2007-08 (of 2G spectrum) was correct as per law and in keeping with the extant policy and procedures,” the affidavit asserted.

The affidavit filed by Sita Ram Meena, assistant director general, DoT, said monitoring of investigations by the court was done in rare and extraordinary circumstances where there was a definite material to show that the investigation was not being carried out in a proper manner.

The government said that pricing of the 2G spectrum fell under the policy making powers of the executive, in which the scope of judicial review was “highly restricted”.

The affidavit described as “wholly incorrect” that the licences in 2G spectrum were issued in disregard to the advice of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The prime minister by his letter of Nov 2, 2007, raised certain issues which were replied by the telecom minister on the same day, it said.

The government said that by a letter of Nov 27, 2007, the union finance secretary raised certain queries regarding the entry fee and the telecom secretary replied to these Nov 29, 2007.

“Thereafter, no further reference or communication was received and there was no difference of opinion between the two ministries,” said the affidavit.

Replying to the allegation that 2G spectrum licences were allocated to ineligible companies, the affidavit said the licences were allocated according to the guidelines issued Dec 14, 2005.

The government said that the applicant companies gave an undertaking that if any information furnished by them was found to be incorrect, their application was liable to be cancelled including the licence, if granted.

If any misrepresentation of facts is brought to the notice, necessary action could be taken as per due procedure under the relevant rules, the affidavit said.

How long will 2G spectrum probe take, asks Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Friday asked the central government how long it would take to complete investigations into the 2G spectrum scam.

The court also sought the central government’s response to a Comptroller and Auditor General’s ( CAG) report pointing out irregularities in allocation of spectrum 2G licences to telecom operators.

The apex court bench headed by GS Singhvi said that it would like to hear Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium on this and several other counts.

The court directed the listing of the case on Nov 15.