2G case: Former TRAI Chairman deposes as prosecution witness

Former TRAI Chairman Nripendra Mishra today told a Delhi court, trying the 2G spectrum case, that ex-Telecom Secretary Siddharth Behura, an accused in the case, had written a letter to him in January, 2008, saying the government's action on spectrum issue was ''in accordance with the established policy''.

Deposing as a prosecution witness, Mishra said the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had repeatedly conveyed the message to the DoT that in case there was any deviation from recommendations made by TRAI on the issue of allocation of spectrum, the authority should be consulted.

"I have also been shown a letter dated January 23, 2008, written by Behura, the then Secretary DoT, to me....The letter, after analysis, has concluded that the action of the government was in accordance with the established policy and it also advised TRAI that in view of the matter being agitated before TDSAT and the High Court, it was not desirable to engage in such correspondence between TRAI and DoT as it is subjudice.

"On this, there was no further correspondence between between TRAI and DoT as government's communication had to be honoured," Mishra told Special CBI Judge O P Saini.

He said TRAI, through its two letters on January 14, 2008, had communicated to the Department of Telecom (DoT) about the criterion of subscriber base for allocation of spectrum, issue of determining spectrum usage charges and clarification on the existing policy of no limits on the number of access service providers.Mishra said there were two specific observations in the January 14, 2008, letter sent to the DoT.

"There were two specific observations in the letter, first relates to adequacy of spectrum availability for existing service providers as well as the likely new players.
"The second point was reiterating the content of an earlier letter dated October 19, 2007, that the recommendations should be considered by identifying and implementing all the linkages in the recommendations and in case of deviation, the authority should be consulted," he said.

On being shown a September 14, 2006, letter written by him to the DoT, Mishra said it was written to clarify the legal requirements under the provisions of the TRAI Act.
"As clarified in the letter, it was reported that there are licence applications pending for consideration in the DoT. Therefore, it became necessary to sensitise the department regarding the legal requirement," he said.

Mishra said former Telecom Secretary D S Mathur had conveyed to him through a letter on October 19, 2006, saying TRAI's recommendations are only necessary for new category of licences.

He said that after the October 19, 2006, letter, he had responded to Mathur reiterating that TRAI's recommendation is necessary before licence for a new service provider is given.

He added he had conveyed the same to Behura through his April 24, 2008, letter.
Mishra said he received a reply from Behura that the position of the DoT was that the recommendation is to be sought only when a licence is being introduced for the first time as a new category of licence.

"Since government's position was final, no further letter was written by TRAI to the government on this subject till my tenure," he said. Mishra, who was the Secretary of DoT from February 2004 to March 2005, said that during his tenure, 10 licences were given to different service providers.

"The policy was strictly in accordance with the recommendations of TRAI. During that time, there were very few applications....

"Those applications, which met recommendations of TRAI and terms and conditions of UAS Licence, were given first letter of intent and then after a specified period, once complied, letter of licence," he said.

"At that time, the entry fee charged was as recommended by TRAI and discovered by auction and it was different for different service areas broadly ranging from Rs one crore to approximately Rs 250 crore. The total pan-India licence, which was additive figure, was approximately Rs 1650 crore,"he said.

During cross examination by counsel Sushil Kumar, appearing for former Telecom Minister A Raja who is the key accused in the 2G case, Mishra said that during his tenure with DoT, he had served under two ministers -- Arun Shourie and Dayanidhi Maran.

He said that during his tenure, around 17 licences were given to telecom companies.
The judge, meanwhile, deferred the cross examination of Mishra to March 14 after CBI today filed some documents related to the case in the court, following which Raja's counsel sought time to go through it.

"Further cross examination (of Mishra) deferred on the prayer of Sushil Kumar, senior advocate, as he requires sometime for studying the documents which have been filed by CBI today itself," the judge said.

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