New Delhi: The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday asked telecom minister Kapil Sibal to deal with issues related to the controversial allocation of telecom spectrum with “some sense of responsibility”, in reaction to his criticism of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on the subject.
The minister didn’t let up on his stand, indirectly attacking the CAG for leaking its report on second-generation (2G) spectrum allocation before it could be tabled in Parliament, saying it resulted in the entire winter session being disrupted by Opposition protests over the issue.
Click here to read about 2G scam in detail
Sibal spoke to reporters after the SC’s observations and a letter from Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman Murli Manohar Joshi to Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar. Joshi requested her to ensure that the authority of the PAC, which is examining the CAG allocation, and the audit body are not impinged upon by ministers.
Sibal justified his earlier criticism of the CAG report, which said the 2G allocation resulted in a notional loss to the exchequer of Rs1.76 trillion, saying the government had a “right to put its point of view before the public” and that he was fully aware of his responsibilities as a cabinet minister.
The minister added that he did not intend to disrespect institutions such as the CAG, the Supreme Court or the PAC.
Earlier on Friday, the SC had called Sibal’s statements on the CAG report “unfortunate” while hearing an application by Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy who told the court that the minister had “ridiculed” the audit body.
Swamy also asked the court to restrain the department of telecommunications (DoT) from regularising licences awarded during the 2008 allocation of spectrum by levying penalties on the telecom companies. The court, while asking Swamy to include this in a written application, said it would consider the matter on 1 February.
The court is simultaneously hearing a public interest case on the cancellation of 2G licences issued by the government in 2007-08.
Sibal, a top Supreme Court advocate himself, did not directly respond to the court’s remarks, saying they did not form a part of written orders.
CAG’s official spokesperson B.S. Chauhan said the body did not wish to make any comment. “CAG does not wish to enter into any dialogue at this point of time since the (2G) report is with the PAC,” Chauhan said.
The court also asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to proceed with its probe.
“The CBI is conducting an investigation into what is called the 2G scam. It is expected to carry on the investigation without being influenced by any statements by anybody,” said the court. The court is monitoring the CBI probe and in December laid out a blueprint for the investigation based on the CAG report.
Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar also criticized Sibal on Friday for questioning the CAG report. He said the audit body’s report was based on facts and policy papers of the DoT and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. He also said that the Rs1.76 trillion notional loss calculation was correct.
Chandrasekhar also attacked the Planning Commission for saying that if telecom licences and spectrum had not been given at subsidized rates the sector would not have seen such explosive growth.
PTI contributed to this stor