What happens to the big fish?

Licensed to cheat: DoT blasted for failing to recover penalty

In 2008, the Department of Telecom (DoT) had allotted 122 licences to nine companies. However, the CAG says the companies which bagged 85 licence, not only disclosed incomplete information but also submitted fictitious documents and suppressed facts which they were supposed to reveal in their applications.

“Since these companies did not meet the eligibility criteria set by the DoT, their applications should have been rejected and they should have been asked to apply afresh as stipulated in the licences guidelines,” said the CAG in its report. When the CAG pointed out these anomalies earlier, the DoT had said that it was contemplating issuing show-cause notices to these erring companies early this year. Interestingly, DoT has not issued any such notices to any license holder so far. “As the pressure is mounting on the government to act, DoT will reopen the case and start issuing notices to 85 questionable licence holders in a couple of days”, sources told Deccan Herald.

Sources also said as the entire spectrum allocation documents were seized by the CBI which is investigating the scam, and the Supreme Court is hearing the case, the government will have to take guarded steps including revoking the licences.

Of the 122 licence holders, some have already started providing their services. If the licences are revoked at this stage, it would directly hit the customers and again lead to another court battle. Another option left before the government willl be to collect more money from these companies, who have got spectrum at very low prices.

Big players

As several big corporate tycoons are involved in the scam, it  is a challenge for the government to take them head on. It will be interesting to know what steps Kapil Sibal, who recently took the charge as telecom minister, will take on the fate of these licences.   
Apart from this, Sibal also has a task to clean up the entire ministry as the CAG had observed that DoT and private companies had deep-rooted nexus in entire controversy. The CAG has said that DoT officials had helped a few corporate houses by leaking classified information in advance about the decisions to be taken regarding spectrum allocation.

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