The Supreme Court today directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to go by its director's decision on proceeding against telcos and individuals in a case relating to alleged irregularities in allocation of additional spectrum when Pramod Mahajan was Telecom Minister during the NDA regime.
CBI sources have said that today's order clears the decks for the agency to file a chargesheet against telcos Airtel and Vodafone and former telecom secretary Shyamal Ghosh. Mr Mahajan, who died in 2006, can't be chargesheeted, but his name will be mentioned, they said.
The agency alleges that in 2002, when Pramod Mahajan was Telecom minister, his ministry had introduced new spectrum allocation rules, based on subscriber base, to benefit certain telcos. The technical committee of the Department of Telecom (DoT), the agency claims, had recommended that additional spectrum beyond 6.2 Mhz should be allotted only after an operator reached a subscriber base of nine lakh. But the DoT had later reduced that to a four-lakh subscriber base to be eligible to apply for additional spectrum.
In its first information report, the agency had alleged that Airtel, then Bharti Cellular, and Vodafone, then Hutchinson Max and Sterling Cellular, had entered into a criminal conspiracy with Mr Mahajan and officials like Shyamal Ghosh and Deputy Director General (Value Added Services) J R Gupta, which resulted in a loss of over Rs 500 crore to the state exchequer. Both companies have denied any wrongdoing.
The CBI had registered a case against Mr Ghosh, Mr Gupta and unnamed officials of the two companies last November.
Earlier this year, the matter was referred to the Law Ministry for advice as there reportedly were divergent views within the CBI on whether a case was made out against the two companies. While a group of CBI officials reportedly believe that there is case to be pursued as they were the main beneficiaries of the policy, another team of officials involved in decision-making differed, sources said.
Today, Attorney General GE Vahanvati presented his opinion, after which the Supreme Court gave its order.
(With PTI inputs