Apex court to monitor expanded CBI probe into spectrum scam (Roundup)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

NEW DELHI - Pointing out to wrongdoings in the grant of licences for second generation spectrum, the Supreme Court Thursday expanded the scope of the CBI probe and said it will monitor it too.

The apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice A.K. Ganguly said the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) should also examine the allotment of dual-use technology to telecom operators before Oct 19, 2007, a year before the 2G spectrum was given away in a controversial manner.

The judges upheld the plea of the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) asking the court to monitor the CBI probe into what has come to be known as the spectrum scam.

The judges said the CBI would conduct a comprehensive probe into the scam in coordination with the Directorate of Enforcement and the income tax department covering the period 2001-07.

The investigating agency would submit the first status report of its investigations Feb 10, 2011.

Both the government and CPIL counsel Prashant Bhushan hailed the Supreme Court decision to oversee the CBI probe.

“I am happy the Supreme Court has directed that these investigations should be done from 2001,” Sibal said here. The probe will cover the grant of telecom licences during the National Democratic Alliance rule.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Bhushan welcomed the court order expanding the scope of the investigation.

He said the CBI will now probe the 2G spectrum muddle in its entirety, starting from 2001. The probe will examine the role of the department of telecommunications (DoT) officials who signed bank loan papers of some telecom operators, he said.

“The apex court order has expanded the scope of the investigations into the 2G spectrum scam,” Bhushan told IANS.

Sibal maintained that a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), demanded by the opposition, would have served no purpose.

“The JPC would have delayed everything. What the government is doing is trying to expedite the process, and what the opposition is trying to do is to delay the process,” he said.

Sibal succeeded A. Raja, who quit in disgrace as the communications minister last month after being accused of allegedly selling 2G spectrum at below market prices, causing huge losses to the government.

The court said the allegations of wrongdoing in spectrum allocation made in the CPIL’s plea were supported by reports of the Central Vigilance Commission and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

The court said there was no need to set up a special investigating team.

The judges directed the CBI to conduct the probe without being influenced by any person or authority.

The Income Tax director general has been asked to provide the transcripts of intercepted telephonic conversations of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia to the CBI.

Radia has been taped lobbying for Raja when a new government took office in May last year.

The court also asked the CBI to probe how ineligible companies got licences for 2G spectrum and why no action was taken against those telecom operators who failed in their rollout obligations.

The CBI would also find out why the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) did not move against grant of licence to ineligible companies and those who failed in their rollout obligations.

The judges said the CBI could register a First Information Report in respect of officials and others who caused huge losses to the exchequer.

The CBI would investigate department of telecommunications officials who signed on the loan applications of telecom companies to secure loans from public sector banks.

The Supreme Court’s observations came a day after the CBI raided scores of people in New Delhi, Noida and Tamil Nadu in a bid to get to the bottom of the scandal.

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