Unfazed by the acquittal of all accused in the 2G allocation case, the government today asserted that the process used by the previous UPA regime to allocate lucrative spectrum was “faulty” and “dipped” in “corruption”. Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha said the fate of the 122 telecom licences belonging to eight operators that were cancelled in 2012 will be decided based on the position the investigative agency takes on the acquittals. Auctioning scarce natural resources is the best way of allocation and not the policy of ‘first-come-first-serve’ followed by the UPA regime by basing the spectrum on 2001 prices, he said. “Congress party jo chakma de rahi hai, wo puri tarah galat hai (the facade by the Congress party is all wrong),” he said. On the matter, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the UPA government’s ‘first-come-first serve’ policy was intended to serve only a select few and there was a huge element of arbitrariness in awarding spectrum.
He cited a Supreme Court verdict to assert corruption in the spectrum allocation and mocked the Congress by saying it was treating a trial court’s acquittal of the accused in the case as “a badge of honour”. Speaking to reporters hours after the special court acquitted all accused, including former telecom minister A Raja, on corruption and cheating charges, Sinha reeled out collections from the subsequent auctions to prove the point that allocations done in 2008 were wrong. “One thing is clear that the 2G spectrum allotment process was faulty and dipped in corruption,” he said, adding “today, the trial court has given its decision and investigating agencies will see and decide next course of action”. The Congress party claiming moral high ground after the verdict is nothing but “facade”, he said, adding that the process was held wrong by multiple agencies.
He recalled the Supreme Court decision of 2012 quashing all the 122 licences given under the then telecom minister Raja, saying the apex court had also held that the procedure followed by the UPA regime was wrong. Quoting from the 2012 order of the apex court, Sinha said the court had observed at that time that the government had virtually gifted away an important natural resource. “Clearly the government incurred revenue loss,” Sinha said alleging that the ‘first-come-first-serve’ policy was altered to ‘first-come-first-pay’ by changing timelines.
Under the ‘first-come-first-serve’ policy, spectrum was allocated to whosoever applied first. In the ‘first-come- first-pay’, anyone capable of putting the licence fee on the table could walk away with the airwaves and telecom licence. “Based on the 2001 prices, spectrum was given in 2008 and instead of the first-come-first-serve policy, it became first-come-first-pay, which was arbitrary and full of corruption,” Sinha said.
Sinha said that even the government’s anti-corruption watchdog CVC had investigated the allocations and had found faults with them. The same CVC had applauded the telecom department for transparency in 2015-16 auctions, he added. Asked if he was still of the view that there was indeed a scam even after the verdict of the lower court today, the minister said the Supreme Court had already held that the previous allotment process had been “arbitrary” and that the “decisions were being made from the power corridors”. “The country’s apex court has already given its views that the policy was faulty and full of corruption,” he maintained. He said that Rs 1.09 lakh crore was raised from spectrum auction in 2015, and Rs 65,789 crore in 2016. Under the UPA regime, this amount stood at Rs 9,407 crore in 2012, Rs 3,539 crore in 2013 and Rs 61,162 crore in 2014.
On the implications of the today’s verdict on the 122 licences that were quashed in 2012, the telecom minister said the government will take a call based on report of the investigative agency. Sinha, however, did not elaborate. The investigative agencies will decide on appealing against the lower court verdict, he said.