Additional Spectrum Allotted During Mahajan's Tenure

New Delhi
Additional Spectrum Allotted During Mahajan's Tenure

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, CBI has claimed in a probe report.

In its report to the Law Ministry, CBI also claimed that Mahajan, who was the Telecom Minister during the BJP-led NDA rule, had apparently told "half truth" to 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, Fernandes had flagged the issue of co-ordination of frequency spectrum with the Defence Services, CBI sources said today.

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 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 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.

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. 

CBI had sent the report to Law Ministry seeking advice of the Attorney General in the case of alleged irregularities in awarding extra spectrum to Airtel and Vodafone after difference in opinion over whether a case against the telecom giants was made out or not.

A group of officials believed a case against the two telecom companies was made out as they were only beneficiaries of the laid down policy while another team of officials involved in decision-making had a different view, official sources said.

The matter, therefore, was referred to the Attorney General for his opinion who is yet to give any opinion, the sources said, adding CBI would file a charge sheet in the case only after getting the opinion of the top law officer of the government.

The agency, in its FIR, had alleged the two companies had entered into a criminal conspiracy which resulted in a loss of over Rs 500 crore to the state exchequer.

In its report, CBI alleged that the then Wireless Advisor P K Garg opined on the file that trials would commence under intimation to the Defence Ministry and if no comments were received from them within a month, formal assignment of spectrum would be issued to operators.

The opinion of Garg had the concurrence of the then Member (technical) Vinod Vaish, Secretary and also the approval of Mahajan, the agency said.

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