Giving a clean chit to home minister P Chidambaram, the CBI on Thursday said its probe into the 2G Spectrum scam did not find Chidambaram's criminal culpability in the alleged conspiracy to award spectrum licences.
"The finance ministry under the then minister P Chidambaram had consistently opposed the sale of telecom licences and spectrum at the 2001 rate, and insisted upon its auction," said a CBI source.
"Despite the finance ministry's opposition, telecom minister A Raja had decided to issue the Letters of Intent (LoI) on January 10, 2008, to the applicants at 2001 rate," the source added.
The CBI probe, said the source, relied upon the statement of a case witness, the then finance secretary D Subbarao, now the Reserve Bank of India's Governor, which HT had first reported on April 24. Subbarao had told CBI that Raja had allegedly "postponed a crucial meeting between department of telecommunication (DoT) officials and him on January 9, which was to decide if spectrum should be allocated at the 2001 rate."
A day later, on January 10, the DoT issued 122 LOIs to applicants who were contractually entitled to "entry level spectrum" at the 2001 rate of around Rs 1, 600 crore. The finance ministry, under Subbarao and his predecessor Ashok Jha, had since April 2007 consistently opposed the pegging of the spectrum's price at 2001 rates and had insisted upon determining its price through an auction, the CBI probe had established.
On whether Chidambaram should have informed the cabinet about the DoT's rejection of the auction route, the source said, "It's not CBI probe's mandate to examine lapses or police matters; we see if there was any criminal culpability."