For the second day on Thursday, Parliament was rocked by disclosures about how a power PR personality and lobbyist Niira Radia influenced the allocation of licence for 2G spectrum for mobile phones.
In Rajya Sabha, leader of opposition Arun Jaitely said it was a serious matter for a lobbyist to be able to influence cabinet formation, among other things. He also raised concerns about random phone tapping.
Documents in possession of Hindustan Times show Radia managed licences and spectrum for at least four mobile operators. The lobbyist is said to have be a “very close associate” of A Raja, the telecom minister.
The findings and inferences listed in these documents were gleaned from conversations Radia had over her phone that was being tapped by the Income Tax department.
Some of India’s top businessmen, politicians and journalists figure in these conversations either for seeking her help or working with her on matters relating to telecom, power, aviation and infrastructure.
The Central Board of Direct Taxes on Wednesday clarified it was not tapping the phones of any politician, advertising professional or business. And that it taps phones only rarely and with proper permission. But there is a signed letter from an Income Tax official to a CBI official confirming Radia’s phone and those of some associates were under observation “after obtaining permission from the home secretary”.
And then the I-T officer goes on to say, “From conversations, it appears the Ms Nira (Niira, actually) Radia might have had some role with regards to the award of telecom licenses.”
“In some other conversation,” officer wrote, “Ms Radia boasts to have helped some of the telecom operators in their efforts to obtain licenses/spectrum. Ms Radia was also in direct touch with Shri Chandolia.”.
Chandolia was then on Raja’s ministerial staff.
PTI: The government had issued new telecom licenses in January 2008 along with bundled 4.4 MHz spectrum for Rs 1,658 crore. The Opposition has been saying that the licenses have been given at 2001 prices and caused huge loss to the government.
CBI is also investigating alleged irregularities in the spectrum allocation and had registered a case against some
unknown officials of the Department of Telecom (DoT) for their involvement.
Jaitley said when the phone tapping issue came up earlier, the Home Minister gave a statement in the House saying the
government had not authorised any telephone tapping of politicians.
PDF files of documents: