Law minister M. Veerappa Moily had signed off on the advise given by his ministry to the department of telecommunications (DoT) that the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) had no locus standi to investigate alleged irregularities into the issue of second generation (2G) telecom licences by the department in 2008.
Moily’s act could embarrass the United Progressive Alliance government, already under fire in the court for delays in probing these allegations.
The substance of this advise has been previously reported, attributing it to a note signed by Santok Singh, then joint secretary legal affairs. A document reviewed by Mint shows that Moily had also signed off on this advise.
The law ministry’s advise has come under fire and Singh, seconded as legal adviser to DoT was first transferred back to the parent ministry in the last week of November and then suspended.
Mint couldn’t ascertain the exact reason cited for his suspension.
Moily seemed to suggest that his signature was routine and he did not have any knowledge of the substance of Singh’s note.
“There are so many papers I signed,” he said. Questioned again, he said the matter was in the Supreme Court, which “is going through all the documents”.
Singh’s note was a response to a letter from DoT seeking advise on CAG’s jurisdiction; it came after the government’s auditor released a draft audit report on the issue of 2G licences.
CAG subsequently submitted a final report that was tabled in Parliament on 16 November and which put the total loss to the exchequer on account of irregularities in the 2008 issue of 2G licences and spectrum, and others, at Rs 1.76 trillion.
The report prompted the resignation of telecom minister A. Raja.
The allotment of the licences in 2008 is also the subject of a separate case in the Supreme Court, which has taken DoT to task.
Singh’s note said: “...We may answer the reference in the negative, and opine that the Comptroller and Auditor General has no duty or power to challenge policy decisions taken by the government.”
Interestingly, India’s chief vigilance commissioner P.J. Thomas has been under the scanner for his refusal to cooperate with CAG for an audit into the 2G allocation.