‘DoT didn’t consult Trai before allocating extra spectrum’
Criticising the telecom policy adopted by the NDA regime, the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) draft report on 2G scam observed that the decision by the Department of Telecom in 2002 to allocate additional spectrum beyond 6.2 Mhz was deliberately aimed at favouring some telecom operators, thereby causing revenue loss to the exchequer.
“The committee also finds the proposal intriguing in view of the fact that the officers concerned who mattered in the decision making were not present on the day when the note was initiated and decision taken,” stated the JPC report, which gave a clean chit to Prime Minster Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P Chidambaram.
“The whole sequence of events leading to the decision taken for allocation of additional spectrum to the operators in Metro circles of Mumbai and Delhi is clearly indicative of inept handling of such a vexed issue by the DoT,” it said. It added that the unusual haste in which the decision was taken in a day appeared to be questionable.
Though the panel draft report prepared by its chairman P C Chacko did not name the operators, the CBI, which is also probing the scam, has filed a charge sheet against Bharti Airtel and Vodafone India on the same issue. The investigative agency alleged that operators were given additional spectrum without any upfront fee.
The committee also said DoT did not refer the matter of allocation of additional spectrum to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) for an expert opinion.
“No plausible explanation in this regard could be given by the then Chairman of Telecom Commission Shyamal Ghosh in evidence before the Committee,” said the draft report.
The panel, which blamed the then Telecom Minister A Raja for the mess in the allocation of 2G spectrum in 2008, also termed the DoT’s decision in 2007 to allow dual technology as “unusual”. Raja became the Telecom Minister on May 18, 2007.
As per the duel technology policy, CDMA operators were permitted to acquire GSM spectrum. This was after Trai had recommended that licensee using one technology may be permitted to use the other subject to payment of an entry fee.
The committee noted that on October 18, 2007 “in-principle” approval was granted to the pending applications of three licensees (Reliance Communications Ltd for 20 service areas, Shyam Telelink Ltd for Rajasthan area and HFCL Infotel Ltd for Punjab service area) for availing dual technology licences and spectrum.
The committee said that granting “in-principle” approval for dual technology spectrum even before pronouncement of the policy in public domain, which was done on October 19, 2007, was something unusual.