2G allocation case: Bharti, Essar to challenge court order
With a local court summoning billionaires Sunil Mittal and Ravi Ruia in 2G spectrum allocation case, Bharti Airtel today charged CBI with attempting to tarnish its reputation while Essar Group said it will take appropriate legal proceedings to challenge the order.
"We will fight this charge sheet against Bharti Airtel and Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman of Bharti Airtel," the company said.
An Essar Group spokesperson said, "We are consulting our legal experts and exploring all legal options and will in due course take up appropriate legal proceedings to challenge this order."
Based on the CBI charge sheet, a Delhi court today summoned as accused CMD of Bharti Airtel (earlier Bharti Cellular Ltd) Sunil Bharti Mittal, Essar Group promoter Ravi Ruia and five others in a case relating to alleged irregularities in allocation of additional spectrum to Airtel and Vodafone during the NDA regime.
The CBI in its charge sheet, however, had only named Shyamal Ghosh and three telecom firms Bharti Cellular Ltd, Hutchison Max Telecom Pvt Ltd (now known as Vodafone India Ltd) and Sterling Cellular Ltd (now known as Vodafone Mobile Service Ltd), but Mittal, Ruia and Asim Ghosh were not arrayed as accused in the case by the agency.
Essar said it was a minority partner with Hutchison Group when additional spectrum was allocated and the charge sheet filed by the CBI does not mention Ravi Ruia or any other member of the Essar Group. However, the order of the Special Judge purports to hold that Ravi Ruia was "the directing mind and will" of Sterling Cellular Ltd.
"Given the facts, such a conclusion is clearly incorrect and misconceived and it is not clear from a reading of the order of the Learned Judge as to on what basis the conclusion has been arrived at," it added.
Besides Mittal and Ruia, the court issued summonses against Asim Ghosh, who was the then Managing Director of accused firm Hutchison Max Telecom Pvt Ltd and former Telecom Secretary Shyamal Ghosh for April 1.
"We would like to reiterate that Bharti Airtel and its promoters have always practised the highest standards of corporate governance and accordingly view the charge sheet as an attempt to tarnish its high reputation," Bharti said.
Airtel said CBI has asserted that they have not found any evidence of conspiracy against any individual whatsoever.
The company said all other telecom operators including MTNL and BSNL received additional spectrum under this policy of February 1, 2002.
"The fact also is that the spectrum under government policy of February 1, 2002, which the charge sheet alleges, was issued to benefit Bharti Airtel Ltd and Vodafone continued until April 2010 under three separate Ministers of Telecom and six Secretaries in the DoT and despite being considered by several formal/informal committees of the DoT/TRAI," it added.
The company said it has "full faith in the judicial process" and is confident its "position will be vindicated before the courts".
"The Essar Group has always displayed the highest regard for law and ethics and has always conducted its business in accordance with the laws of the land. Thus the recent order purporting to take cognizance against Ravi Ruia, in relation to allegations of excess spectrum, is both shocking and surprising," the Essar Group spokesperson added.
It added that at the relevant time, Essar Group was a minority partner with the Hutchison Group in various companies which were offering mobile telecom services in India.
"Sterling Cellular Limited was one of these companies. The day to day management of all of these companies was effectively in the hands of directors and employees nominated by the Hutchison Group," it said.