The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), investigating irregularities in the awarding of spectrum in 2001-07 as per a Supreme Court order, has begun probing allegations that the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) had granted 21 telecom licences and spectrum to private telecom firm Aircel in 2003-06 at 2001 rates. The allocation of the licences and the spectrum at 2001 rates was in violation of central rules.
“Our preliminary probe indicates that till 2003, Aircel had only two telecom licences, in Chennai Metro circle and in Tamil Nadu circle.
Between 2004 and 2006, Aircel got telecom licences and spectrum in 21 more circles, making it a pan-India operator,” said a CBI source, not authorised to talk to media. The source, added, “According to the CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) report of 2010-11, the DoT awarded the 21 licences at 2001 prices in violation of a 2003 central government decision.”
The CBI is also verifying whether the firm’s licence for Chennai circle was allegedly extended by the DoT without payment of the requisite fee, said the source. “These violations could have resulted in a huge loss to the exchequer,” said the source.
The DoT allegedly had, apart from awarding 14 Universal Access Services licences to the firm in December 2006, also allocated the firm “startup spectrum in Kolkata area without following the First-Come-First-Served basis,” said the source.
“We have sought specific details regarding DoT’s allocation of spectrum allocation during the tenure of the concerned telecom ministers,” said the source.