‘Raja wanted to favour firms at cost of public funds’

NEW DELHI: A trial court’s unexpected clean chit on Thursday to all accused in the 2G spectrum scam case runs counter to the Supreme Court’s February 2, 2012 judgment cancelling all 122 licences after finding the allotments illegal and imposing a fine of Rs 17 crore on seven undeserving beneficiaries.

The SC, through then judges G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly, had a lot to say on the involvement of the then telecom minister in the “arbitrary” allotment of 2G spectrum. “The exercise undertaken by the officers of the department of telecom between September 2007 and March 2008, under the leadership of the then minister of communications and information technology, was wholly arbitrary, capricious and contrary to public interest apart from being violative of the doctrine of equality,” it had said.

After hearing the counsel for all accused and telecom companies, the SC bench had said, “The material produced before the court shows that the minister of communications and information technology wanted to favour some companies at the cost of the public exchequer.” The SC had listed nine grounds for reaching the conclusion.

Surely, somebody had to be responsible for all these illegalities. However, on Thursday, the trial court found no one responsible for the ‘arbitrary and capricious’ distribution of scarce natural resources.

The SC had said the then communications minister was “very much conscious of the fact that the secretary finance, had objected to the allocation of 2G spectrum at the rate fixed in 2001, but did not consult the finance minister or the office of the finance ministry”.

The bench had said, “The minister of communications and IT brushed aside the suggestion made by the minister of law and justice for placing the matter before the Empowered Group of Ministers.

Not only this, within few hours of the receipt of the suggestion made by the PM in his November 2, 2007, letter that keeping in view the inadequacy of spectrum, transparency and fairness should be maintained in the matter of allocation thereof, the minister of C&IT rejected the same by saying it will be unfair discriminatory, arbitrary and capricious to auction the spectrum to new applicants because it will not give them level playing field.”

The SC had found that the variation of cut-off date and change of first-come firstserved policy “enabled some of the applicants, who had access either to the minister or the officers of DoT, to get demand drafts, bank guarantee etc prepared in advance for compliance of the conditions of the letters of intent, which was the basis for determination of seniority for grant of licences and allocation of spectrum”.

The SC had said, “The manner in which the exercise for grant of LoIs to the applicants was conducted on January 10, 2008, leaves no room for doubt that everything was stage managed to favour those who were able to know in advance the change in the implementation of the firstcome first-served policy.”

In the concluding part of the February 2012 judgment, the SC had imposed a cost of Rs 5 crore each on Etisalat DB Telecom Pvt Ltd (Swan Telecom Ltd), Unitech Wireless Group and Tata Teleservices Ltd, who “benefited at the cost of public exchequer by a wholly arbitrary and unconstitutional action taken by DoT” to grant licences and allot spectrum in 2G band. These three companies had offloaded their stakes for many thousand crores in the name of fresh infusion of equity or transfer of equity. The SC had also ordered Loop Telecom Pvt Ltd, S-Tel, Allianz Infratech and Sistema Shyam Tele Services Ltd to pay Rs 50 lakh each as cost because “they too had been benefited…”

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