Loss to exchquer key question in spectrum case: Apex court

Thursday, November 25, 2010

NEW DELHI - As the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Thursday offered to file in the Supreme Court a status report on its probe into the scandal involving allocation of spectrum to mobile companies, the court said the basic question was the “huge loss to the public exchequer and consequent pecuniary gains to private operators”.

“There could be a dispute over the total quantum of scam money” but the transaction in respect of two operators prima facie indicated that government would have got nearly Rs.9,000 crore, said the apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice A.K. Ganguly.

The court gave CBI time till Nov 30 - the next date of hearing - to file the status report on its investigation into the scandal.

“What is the protocol when the prime minister writes to a minister? Does the minister just reply,” court asked when senior counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), said that the former telecom minister A. Raja disregarded the advice of the prime minister and finance and law ministries on the revision of the spectrum prices.

The court was told that the department of telecom first approached the law ministry for advice. However, when the ministry said that the question of revision of spectrum prices be referred to a group of ministers, Raja said that the ministry’s opinion was “out of context”.

At this, the court said: “We have not understood that after obtaining the advice of the law ministry there is a reluctance to follow the advice on the grounds that it would result in litigations.”

The court said that litigation was not a criminal act but a right to go to the court.

The court also took note of the way Raja changed the conditions and cut-off date for the grant of licence and allocation of spectrum to mobile companies.

Bhushan told the court that the first-come-first-served policy was changed to provide licence and spectrum to those who complied with the condition of filing letter of intent first.

The court was told that the change in the condition for the grant of licence was communicated at 2.45 p.m. Jan 10, 2010 through a press release.

Raja’s senior counsel T.R. Andhyarujina said that the former minister was wrongly being branded as villain.

The court was hearing CPIL’s petition seeking court monitoring of CBI investigation into the scandal. The hearing will continue Thursday.

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