SC criticizes Sibal for undermining CAG report on 2G scam

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has pulled up Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal for making statements undermining the CAG report on the 2G scam and asked him to behave with “some sense of responsibility.”

“It is unfortunate. The minister should behave with some sense of responsibility,” the bench of Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly said.

It directed the CBI to go ahead with the probe into the scam without getting influenced by any body’s statement.

The CAG has estimated a loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crores to the exchequer in allocation of 2G spectrum during the tenure of former Telecom Minister A Raja.

“In our opinion, the CBI which is conducting investigation into the 2G scam is expected to carry out the probe without being influenced by the statement made by anybody, anywhere, including the press,” the bench said.

Sibal had termed as “utterly erroneous and without any basis” the estimated loss arrived at by the CAG on account of allocation of 2G spectrum to telecom operators. MORE KRH AAC RKS RAX SC
The bench also issued notices to 11 private telecom companies, which were granted licenses despite being alleged ineligible operators or had failed to launch services within stipulated time-frame.

The private telecom companies which were issued notices included Etisalat, Uninor, Loop Telecom, Videocon, S-Tel, Allianz Infra, Idea Cellular, Tata Teleservices, Sistema Shyam Teleservices, Dishnet Wireless and Vodafone-Essar.

While issuing notices to various telecom firms, the bench indicated that the companies could not get away merely by paying penalties and asked Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy to file an application seeking to restrain DoT from accepting penalties.

The bench also sought the reply of sectoral regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for allegedly not taking action against the telecom firms and defaulting in meeting their roll out obligations. It posted the matter for further hearing on February 1.

The bench was hearing Swamy’s plea seeking apex court’s direction to the CBI to ensure that nothing, including Sibal’s public criticism of the CAG report, affected its investigation.

He had move the court last week apprehending that the telecom minister’s recent criticism of CAG report on 2G spectrum allocation may influence the ongoing CBI probe.

“It is apprehended that intemperate and uncalled for public attack on the CAG methodology (by the telecom minister) before the national press may prejudice the CBI investigations and cause an obstruction to justice,” Swamy had said in his application.

“There is an urgency to ensure that the said CBI inquiry is carried out without interference for which purpose the monitoring was directed by this court. Nothing must permit the slightest derogation from that objective,” he had said.

Referring to Sibal’s remarks, Swamy had said, “The telecom Minister has criticized the approach of the CAG in estimating the loss to the nation by illegal awarding of licenses and the allocation of 2G Spectrum in a manner tantamount to ridiculing the CAG.

“He has even gone to the extent of issuing a veiled warning of a breach of secrecy on the part of the CAG, thereby intending to overawe an institution, constitutionally empowered to oversee the finances of the government,” he had said.

“This court has directed monitoring of the CBI probe into the criminal culpabilities in the 2G spectrum scam and has specifically directed CBI to take the CAG Report as the basis for it,” Swamy had said, recalling the court’s December 16 order.

He had also objected to Sibal’s statement intending that the ministry will unveil a new Telecom Policy within 100 days, besides Department of Telecom’s step of imposing a penalty of Rs 73 crores on various telecom companies for not meeting the roll-out obligations stipulated in licenses.

In his petition, Swamy apprehended that such steps by the ministry and the minister would compound and complicate the issue and “by the payment of such compounding fees etc, rights to regularization may be claimed by the defaulting licensees.

“And this may lead to further losses to the public exchequer,” Swamy had said.

He had also pleaded to the court to make 11 telecom companies, which were awarded licenses by telecom ministry in 2008, party to enable them to have their say in adjudication of his earlier petition for cancellation of their licenses.

Swamy had also sought the court’s direction to make TRAI a party, saying that the sectoral regulator’s version would also be needed in deciding the issue of cancellation of licenses.

-PTI

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