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Probe telecom irregularities from 2001, SC tells CBI

By Onkar Singh
December 16, 2010 12:39 IST
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The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate to carry out investigations into the 2G spectrum scam by bringing in its ambit the telecom policy since 2001.

A bench comprising justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly made it clear that the emphasis of the investigation would be to determine the loss of money to the public exchequer and a progress report on the probe has to be filed by the CBI and the ED in a sealed cover on the next date of hearing on February 10, 2011.

The bench allowed the appeal filed by a NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation, against the Delhi high court which had rejected the plea for a CBI investigation into the irregularities in the grant of licence for 2G spectrum.

"The high court has committed a serious error in dismissing the writ petition. Prima facie, there was sufficient material supported by documents to proceed on the allegation," the bench observed.

The bench said that the report of the Central Vigilance Commission and the findings of the CAG needed impartial investigation.

However, there was no need for a special team to investigate the scam as the government has agreed to a court-monitored investigation which is moving in the right direction, said the bench. The justices added that Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium and senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for CBI, have assured that there will be comprehensive investigation by the two agencies (CBI and ED).

"Accordingly, we are giving directions that the CBI shall carry out an investigation based on the CVC report and consider the findings of CAG, which has prima facie found that ineligible entities were granted licences," the bench said.

The bench said that the CBI should consider the investigations done by the CVC and the findings of the CAG on the irregularities, which according to it, blatantly violated norms. The bench further said that the investigation will also cover why roll out obligations were not fulfilled.

Further, it asked the investigating agencies to probe the transfer of dual technology -- CDMA and GSM -- saying while the notification for the dual technology was issued on October 19, 2007, one of the service providers was given the permission a day earlier. The investigation shall also cover huge loans by public sector banks and probe whether Department of Telecom officials were signatory to the licence agreements, the bench said.

The bench directed the CBI and ED to carry out investigations without being influenced by any individual, their ranks, functionaries and agencies.

The bench asked the Directorate of Income Tax to hand over the transcripts of the tapped conversations carried out under the order of the home secretary to the CBI.

The court had reserved its judgement on December 8 after hearing arguments forwarded by CPIL, CBI, Enforcement Directorate, the Department of Telecommunication and former telecom minister A Raja, who resigned from the Cabinet in the wake of the scam.

The bench directed the CBI not to get influenced by anyone and report to the court about any developments.

Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy welcomed the decision of the apex court but added, "This does not negate our demand for a joint parliamentary committee probe. The CBI can investigate the criminal aspects of the case but there are other factors which only the JPC can investigate".

Communist Party of India -- Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury said that his party would give a considered view after discussing the matter.

The court also asked the investigating agencies to expand the scope of its investigations from 2001 and find out if the previous telecom ministers had also faltered on the issue.

With inputs from PTI

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