JPC nails Vahanvati submission

JPC nails Vahanvati submission

The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the 2G spectrum allocation scam has contradicted Attorney General Goolam E Vahanvati’s submission before it that he was unaware of the change in procedure for the controversial allocation of 2G licences for mobile telephony.

“The committee believes that G E Vahanvati, the former Solicitor General, was in the know of the procedure that was approved by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in the file notings dated January 7, 2008,” said the JPC in its report.

JPC Chairman P C Chacko submitted the report, adopted after a 16-11 vote by the committee last month, to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar on Tuesday.

Addressing a press conference, Chacko said Vahanvati had held a different view when he appeared before the committee, which found that he was in the know of the departure from the first-come-first-served policy in allocation of Unified Access Services (UAS) licences.

“The committee observed that up till January 7, 2008, the DoT in all its notings projected the correct picture about the procedure followed by it in issuing UAS licences. From January 7, 2008, the procedure adopted by it was a clear departure from the established practice,” said the report.

The 374-page report mentions a file noting made by Vahanvati stating that everything was in order. Vahanvati was solicitor general during the UPA-I regime. He was elevated to the attorney general post when the UPA returned to power in 2009.

Vahanvati on his appearance before the JPC on February 5, had submitted that the changes in the first-come-first-served policy were never discussed with him, and that he had nothing to do with issuance of 2G spectrum licences.

The CBI, which had taken up the investigation of the 2G case, had in 2011 made Vahanvati only a witness. He became the first attorney general to appear as a witness in a corruption case. He was among the 125 witnesses, which included senior bureaucrats and officials of the telecom ministry and dozens of senior corporate executives.

Chacko also disagreed with the Comptroller and Auditor General’s findings that the presumptive loss to the exchequer on account of 2G spectrum allocation could be up to Rs 1.76 lakh crore.

“How something indicative, notional or suggestive could be treated as loss to the exchequer seems unconvincing,” he said.

At the same time, he contended that the loss to the exchequer on account of the migration policy implemented by the NDA dispensation had resulted in loss to the exchequer to the tune of Rs 43,000 crore.

He maintained that the policy was not wrong, but questioned the reasons behind waiving of the outstanding dues of telecom companies. “This is not a notional or presumptive loss but a specific loss incurred by the government of the day,” he said.

Under the National Telecom Policy of 1999, all operators under the fixed licence fee regime were asked to migrate to a revenue-sharing regime, wherein they were required to pay a percentage of their Adjusted Gross Revenue as annual licence fee and spectrum usage charge to the government.

The submission of the report brings the curtains down on an elaborate exercise undertaken by the committee, which was constituted after the Opposition stalled an entire session of Parliament in December 2010.

The committee, constituted in February 2011, and had quite an eventful tenure, which saw Opposition members express no confidence in its chairman and threaten to quit the panel, only to rejoin the proceedings later.

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