The CPI (M)’s charges of irregularities in the allocation of telecom licences to private players by the Union Telecommunications Ministry last year have got a fresh lease of life, with the Central Vigilance Commission deciding to initiate action against top officials of the Department of Telecommunication (DOT) soon.
The role of DoT secretary Siddharth Behura has also come under the scanner.
CVC Pratyush Sinha told HT: “DoT officials have been found responsible for the manipulations and we’ve decided to initiate action against them.” The report, he said, was sent to the Telecom Ministry one-and-a-half months back and the Commission would soon be asking it to fix responsibilities of those involved in it.
The allocation of 2G spectrum to some private companies on a ‘first-come-first-serve’ basis was “completely subjective and subject to serious manipulation,” he said. The Commission’s inquiry brought out that the DOT officials did not follow procedures in giving away the licences.
The CVC said: “There was a clause that you can’t transfer your license unless you have rolled out the facilities, but both Swan and Unitech gave away their shares to two foreign telecom companies within six to nine months.”
On the role of Union Telecom Minister A. Raja in the whole issue, Sinha said, “It is out of the Commission’s purview”.
The issue of spectrum allocation had rocked the Parliament when the Communist Party of India (Marxist) demanded a high-level inquiry into "an enormous loss to the national exchequer due arbitrary allocation of 2G licences".
Swan Telecom had bought the license for 13 circles and was allotted 2G spectrum by DoT for Rs 1,537 crore. It subsequently brought in United Arab Emirates' telecom operator, Etisalat, by issuing fresh shares at a premium. Unitech brought in a Norway-based company, Telenor, as a partner.