New Delhi: Defying a clamour for his resignation, Union textile minister Dayanidhi Maran on Wednesday said he did not favour Aircel Ltd while granting spectrum and licences as telecom minister during 2004-07.
Maran, the grand nephew of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) patriarch M. Karunanidhi, has been accused of issuing 14 licences to Aircel in December 2006 after Malaysia’s Maxis Group acquired a stake of more than 70% in it.
News magazine Tehelka has said that Maran deliberately delayed clearing Aircel’s licence application, forcing the company to strike the share deal with Maxis. In return, Maxis invested nearly Rs 600 crore in Sun Direct TV, owned by Maran’s family, the magazine said.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, Left parties and Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa have demanded Maran’s resignation.
Maran, who has sent a contempt notice to Tehelka, held talks with telecom minister and Congress leader Kapil Sibal before issuing a press statement.
“I vouch that during my tenure as minister of communications and IT (information technology), I was totally impartial in taking decisions,” he said. “I have not favoured any company over others. Neither any applicant company was allowed to jump the queue in grant of UASL (unified access service licences) nor was there any loss to the exchequer.”
Maran said the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has also not mentioned any loss on account of the issue of licences during his tenure.
A CAG report has said the government incurred a notional loss of Rs 1.76 trillion on account of irregularities in the allocation of second-generation (2G) telcom spectrum and licences. K. Kanimozhi and former telecom minister A. Raja, who are also from the DMK, are accused in the alleged scam and are in jail, along with some telecom company executives and others.
“No telecom company has directly or indirectly invested in any of the companies owned by my brother during my tenure as telecom minister,” Maran said. “I was not even a minister, when Astro invested in Sun Direct in December 2007 as I had resigned on 13 May 2007. Needless to say, I own no shares or any fiduciary in any of these companies.”
The Centre said the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the joint parliamentary committee (JPC) are looking into the matter.
“In the telecom matter, there is a CBI investigation and a JPC inquiry. Between the two of them, I think they cover the entire gamut of issues brought to the surface,” home minister P. Chidambaram said.
CBI, which is investigating the 2G scam under the Supreme Court’s supervision, said it has already registered a preliminary enquiry into Maran’s case. “We are examining it seriously. If need be, we will question Maxis Group and seek government permission to investigate Maran,” an investigating officer said on condition of anonymity.