The late telecom minister Pramod Mahajan had allegedly ordered allotting of additional spectrum (beyond 6.2 MHz and up to 10 MHz) in January 2002 to three mobile operators in an undue haste.
He did not seek the requisite concurrence of the Telecom Commission or its member (finance) and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT)'s technical officials, including the wireless advisor, says a CBI probe report.
“There were no TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) recommendations for allocating such additional spectrum by levying only additional 1% of AGR (Adjusted Gross Revenue) which were required to be taken as per the provisions of the TRAI Act, 1997,” said a CBI source.
The findings of the CBI, which probed irregularities in the grant of telecom licences and spectrum during 2001-2007, revealed that Mahajan allegedly took the decision to allot the additional spectrum in a day — on January 31, 2002 — in conspiracy with and on recommendation of the then telecom secretary. He allegedly took the decision in “undue haste with a malafide intention in view of the IPO (Initial Public Offering) of one of the three accused private telecom firms, to mitigate the risks and brighten its prospects,” states the report.
The decision was taking without waiting for the adverse joint testing report of the DoT officials and one of the accused telecom firms, which came a day after the decision. A former Mahajan aide says that DoT's technical officers had told the late minister “better use of technology could avoid grant of additional spectrum, which is a scarce resource”.
Mahajan, who was the telecom minister in 2001-3 during BJP-led NDA government, had apparently told “half truth” to the then defence minister George Fernandes that additional spectrum up to 8 Mhz to cellular operators was assigned only after due coordination with Joint Communication and Electronic Staff.