Did former communications and information technology minister Dayanidhi Maran grant licences to Aircel to roll out mobile phone services without the mandatory recommendation from sector watchdog Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)?
HT has reviewed documents that clearly show how Aircel — then owned by Malaysia-based Maxis — was favoured when it received the licence. Maxis promoter T Ananda Krishnan has a decade-old relationship with the Maran family.
Maran, who is now the union textile minister, violated norms stipulated in the TRAI Act, 1997 while granting licences to Dishnet Wireless Ltd (DWL), a sister concern of Aircel, for services in seven circles. Both Aircel and DWL have since merged.
According to Section 11 (1) of TRAI Act, regulator should "recommend the need and timing for introduction of new service provider." This means that the DoT has to seek the regulator's recommendation before issuing new licences.
Solicitor general Gopal Subramanium has also given a similar opinion on why TRAI's recommendation was mandatory for granting telecom licences.
"The central government must seek the recommendations of the Authority under section 11(1) as and when a new licence is granted whether in respect of the same service provider or a new service provider or a new person or when a fresh licence is granted in respect of another service," Subramanium said in an July 14, 2007 opinion to the DoT.
"The fact that same category of licences with similar terms and conditions have already been granted would not obviate the central government from seeking the recommendation of the Authority at the time of issuance of new licence," he had opined.
HT had first reported on February 14, on how Astro, a Maxis group company, got cabinet's nod to invest Rs 675 crore in Sun Direct TV — a firm owned by Kalanithi Maran, the DMK leader's elder brother. Maran did not reply to emails sent by HT.