The Supreme Court moved on Monday to pry open an alleged R70,000-crore scandal involving the underpricing of 2G spectrum for mobile telecom services, asking Communi-cations Minister A. Raja, Centre and CBI to respond to a petition that said the CBI was going slow with its investigations.
The Centre for Public Interest Litigation’s (CPIL) lawyer Prashant Bhushan asked the court to direct the CBI to produce the records of the case that involves the alleged irregularities in selling wireless spectrum used for mobile services to telecom operators at throwaway prices on a first-come, first-served basis.
Allegations of a scam were brought up especially after the auction of the 3G spectrum and related services brought in R1 lakh crore. The opposition had stalled Parliament several times seeking Raja’s dismissal.
The CPIL challenged a May 25 Delhi HC judgment dismissing its plea for the court to monitor the investigation. An SC bench direct the respondents to act within 10 days.
During the hearing, Bhushan read out letters exchanged between the CBI and income-tax department regarding taped conversations between chairman of PR firm Vaishnavi, Niira Radia, Raja and DoT officials. He said telephone call records showed how middlemen regularly interacted with officials and influenced policy-decisions and grant of licences.
After going through the letters, the court expressed surprise to read: “Radia might have had some role to play.”
“If they have heard the conversation, why do they say might have had. Why is there so much of uncertainty?” the bench asked.
The court also took exception to CBI’s FIR registered against “unknown persons.” It noted: “Why is CBI so uncertain? Doesn’t the CBI know the officials involved?”
In January 2008, the Depart-ment of Telecommunications (DoT) had awarded 122 Univer-sal Access Service (UAS) licences for 2G spectrum on a first-come-first-served (FCFS) basis at the rate of R1,658.57 crore per pan-India UAS licence.
The price was determined in a 2001 auction and its value grew manifold later. But the Centre got only R9,014 crore as licence fees from these 122 licences in a sale well below market prices.