The court order, delivered last week, says the CBI shall, if it has already not registered FIR in the context of the alleged irregularities committed in the grant of licences from 2001 to 2006-07, now register a case and conduct a thorough investigation... and also on the issue of allowing use of dual/alternate technology by some service providers even before the decision was made public vide press release dated October 19, 2007.
CBI sources told FE that the agency would lodge the FIR in this regard shortly, which would be followed by questioning of former telecom minister A Raja, his team of DoT officials and senior executives of the companies concerned.
FE had reported in its edition dated December 1 that, after slapping showcause notices on defaulting and ineligible telcos who bagged 2G spectrum during Rajas tenure, telecom minister Kapil Sibal plans to turn his attention to dual technology.
Dual-technology licences, which means allowing CDMA mobile operators to provide GSM services as well, was issued to Reliance Communications, Tata Teleservices, HFCL Infotel and Shyam Telelink. Of the Rs 1,76,000-crore undervaluation mentioned in the CAG report, Rs 37,154 crore is on the account of dual-technology licences. Though TTSL was granted licences much later, RComm, HFCL and Shyam were granted permission on October 18, 2007 itself all three companies, the CAG report points out, had applied for a dual-technology licence at a time when there was no dual-technology policy. Rcomm has, however, contested this, saying the dual-technology licence was cleared by the Delhi High Court.
A RComm spokesperson said, The Honble Supreme Court has inter alia directed the CBI to register first information report in the context of the alleged irregularities committed in the grant of telecom licences from 2001 to 2006-2007, which covers over 50 licences granted to all major telecom operators in the country, including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, Aircel, etc. The issue of dual technology has been comprehensively dealt with and upheld in the judgment passed by the Delhi High Court on August 22, 2008, and the said judgment has not been challenged anywhere and has become final. Nonetheless, we welcome any further enquiry into the matter, and as legally advised, state that we have fully complied with all relevant policies, procedures and guidelines.
Getting the licence a day ahead allowed RComm to obtain the right to 2G spectrum in 20 circles on the day the policy was announced. TTSL, which applied for a dual-technology licence after the policy was announced, did not get spectrum in all the circles it applied for as a result. As reported by FE, TTSL has already filed a petition in the TDSAT in this regard. The petition says the petitioner were the first legitimate applicants to apply on the same day of press release i.e. on October 19, 2007 itself.
The process followed by the DoT while introducing access to the dual technology to the existing telecom operators lacked transparency and fairness. Equal opportunity was denied to other similarly placed operators who could apply for use of dual technology, only after the formal announcement of the policy, the CAG report has said.