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Nov 30, 2012, 08.53 AM IST | Source: CNBC-TV18

SC tells CBI to prosecute telcos in excess spectrum case

The case began just over a year back when the CBI converted a preliminary enquiry on allegations of irregular allocation of spectrum during the BJP led NDA government in 2002 into an FIR.

Siddharth Zarabi

Economic Editor, CNBC-TV18

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The case began just over  a year back when the CBI converted a preliminary enquiry on allegations of irregular allocation of spectrum during the BJP led NDA government in 2002 into an FIR. Today the Supreme Court ordered CBI to take action and prosecute the matter in accordance with the views of the Director. Here's the story….

Earlier this September the CBI investigators had recommended that while the requirement of additional spectrum to meet subscriber growth is not disputed, the question was on the timing, legal process and value at which this scarce resource was awarded. 

The officials also named Bharti Cellular for offences punishable under section 120B of the Indian Penal Code & Sec 13(2), 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Since the then Telecom Minister Pramod Mahajan has already expired, the CBI officials suggested he be named as an accused not sent for trial, while they said no action was needed against former DoT official JR Gupta, Hutchison Max and Sterling Cellular due to lack of evidence. The officials had further said that JR Gupta could be made a prosecution witness.

Subsequently, in October this year the Director CBI felt that a case of prosecution was made out against one public servant and one company, adding that the remaining two companies could also be liable for prosecution. In light of the differences of opinion within the CBI, the matter was referred to the Attorney General who was asked to comment on whether a case was made out against Bharti Cellular alone, or whether Hutchison Max and Sterling Cellular would also stand accused. The AG was also asked to comment on whether a case was made out against the promoter managing director of Bharti Cellular. The AG was also asked that if the answer to the first two questions was in the negative, whether Bharti Cellular alone can be prosecuted through authorized representatives.

The AG gave his opinion on November 27 and the CBI today placed it in a sealed cover before the bench of Supreme Court Justices G S Singhvi and K S Radhakrishnan. After considering the report, the bench directed the CBI to go ahead with its outgoing Director A P Singh's view on the prosecution of telecom companies, their officials and public servants. The Order paves the way for the agency to file the chargesheet, which agency sources said would happen soon at the special 2G Trial Court at Patiala House in the national capital. The exact contours of the charges and the accused will only be known at that stage.

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