iconimg Saturday, August 29, 2015

Nagendar Sharma, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, March 17, 2011
Former telecom minister A Raja broke the rules and used the legal opinion of the government's top law officer, attorney general GE Vahanvati, in March 2009 to avoid a probe on Swan Telecom's eligibility for 2G spectrum allocation. Raja ignored a file noting from the then-telecom secretary Siddharth Behura that the issue be referred to the law ministry for its opinion on the controversy rather than sending it directly to Vahanvati, who was then the Solicitor General (SG).

Vahanvati denied having given any clean chit to Swan Telecom.

"All I had stated was that referring the matter to the corporate affairs ministry at that juncture was not feasible. Nowhere had I stated that Swan was in the clean. I am not aware how my opinion was used," he said.

Official documents show the matter was referred to the department of telecom (DoT) by the Prime Minister's Office following complaints about the ownership details of the Swan Telecom company by a Congress Rajya Sabha MP Dharampal Sabharwal and former law minister Subramanian Swamy.   

"Representations have been received through the PMO alleging the violation of substantial equity clause of the 2005 guidelines in the grant of Unified Access Service licences to the company," stated an internal DoT note on January 12, 2009.

The note further stated that the "ministry for corporate affairs may be requested to examine the matter."

Following further discussions within the department, finally Raja in his handwritten noting asked the matter be referred to Vahanvati, without consulting the law ministry on the need for a legal opinion, which is the procedure.

"May be sent to the SG directly since the cases are represented by him before the TDSAT and other judicial forums, including the High Court, Delhi," Raja wrote on February 13.

In his three-page opinion, Vahanvati concluded there was no need to refer the matter to the corporate affairs ministry.

In the concluding paragraph of his opinion, Vahanvati wrote that the company's application did not violate the rules.

"The file shows that there has been a full consideration of all relevant material and the conclusion that the applicants fulfilled all the necessary conditions cannot really be faulted," he noted.

"I have gone through the file which has been sent to me. I have also had a detailed discussion with the concerned official, and at his instance, the entire file notes relating to the processing of the application of M/s Swan telecom Pvt Ltd were shown to me," Vahanvati wrote on March 24.