Refusing to take blame for the differences within the government on the controversial 2G spectrum allocation policy, the embattled Telecom Ministry has said the final decision was the sole responsibility of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
In its response to the latest draft report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the 2G spectrum scam of 2008, the Department of Telecom (DoT) has rejected the finding that it ignored Law and Finance ministries’ advice on the issue.
The CAG, in its report had said that since there were differences between the Telecom and Law ministries on the allocation policy, the matter should have been referred to an Empowered Group of Ministers (eGoM).
“The difference of opinion between the hon’ble ministers for Communications and Law regarding referring the matter to an eGoM should have been referred to the cabinet for decision. This was, however, not done,” states the CAG report.
In its response, the DoT has said the matter was in its sole purview as per the Government of India rules, 1961, and did not require any consultation. It has, however, added that it was for the PMO to take a final call.
“This issue was clarified by the Communications Minister to the PM through his letter in November 2007. It may be noted here that the prerogative of forming a GoM lies with the PM and not with the minister concerned,” the DoT replied.
“Moreover, the need for forming a Group of Ministers arises when a new policy is being framed, whereas in this case no new policy was being framed,” the department further stated in its reply.
Slamming the Law Ministry for its opinion, the department has said instead of providing it the expert advice of top law officers, the ministry went into other extraneous issues.
“The Law ministry, instead of arranging the opinion of either the Attorney General or the Solicitor General in the matter, gave its own opinion which was out of context,” the DoT stated.
The CAG gas put the amount of loss to the public exchequer due to the scam at R1.40 lakh crore.
The Telecom Ministry had rejected the auditor’s findings on the basis of an opinion obtained from the Law Ministry, but with the Supreme Court admitting a public interest litigation in the matter, the government will now have to reply on the CAG findings by October 22.
Sept 2007: Four firms apply for 2G spectrum licences
Oct: Raja seeks Law Ministry’s clearance on policy
Nov: Then Law Minister H.R. Bhardwaj asks an eGoM. PM agrees with Law Minister
Dec: Raja rejects Law ministry’s advice; informs PM about proceeding with allocation
Jan 2008 : Spectrum allocation begins and continues
Sept : CPI(M) alleges a R60,000 cr spectrum scam
April 2010: Details of tapes establishing Raja’s role surfaces