Former SC judge to probe 2G row: Sibal

Former SC judge to probe 2G row: Sibal

New Delhi: The government will set up a one-man committee headed by a former Supreme Court judge to examine issue of telecom licences and allocation of spectrum between 2001 and 2009, telecom minister Kapil Sibal said on Thursday.

The committee will look into internal operating procedures of the telecom ministry, Sibal said, adding he would like to see the inquiry completed in a month.

The minister said that the government will complete the process of sending show cause notices to about six telecom firms for bagging 85 licences in allegedly non-transparent manner by the end of this week.

“We will complete sending notices to the telecom operators by this week," Sibal told reporters on the sidelines of the India Telecom 2010 summit in the National Capital.

The government had earlier said it will send notices to 85 licencees asking why their licences should not be cancelled for suppressing facts at the time of applying.

These telecom firms will be given 60 days to respond.

Many companies are facing allegations of not disclosing all facts while applying for 2G licences in 2007.

The DoT will issue notices in 119 instances, dating back to 2006, for not complying with rollout obligations, Sibal had earlier said.

Last month, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had asked the government to cancel 62 licences given to five companies, including Etisalat (Swan), Uninor and Videocon.

Recommendation for this strong action was made to the telecom ministry owing to the companies’ non-compliance or irregular roll-out of network, as laid down in the contract.

The action came amid the Comptroller and Auditor General slamming the telecom ministry for irregularity and impropriety in giving licences to new players in 2008, causing a loss of a whopping 1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer.

The minister also termed as “unfortunate" the war of words between operators and cautioned that such practices were not healthy for the growth of the sector.

Asked to comment on operators accusing each other for being favoured by the government in spectrum allocation, he said such discourses in the public domain should be avoided.

“What I find today is very unfortunate, some operators are at war with others. This is because at any given point of time they felt that they had been discriminated against," he said.

However, he ensured a level-playing-field for all the telecom service providers going forward.

When asked about Tata Sons chairman Ratan Tata accusing BJP-led NDA regime for policy flip-flops in telecom sector Sibal said: “I guess he (Ratan Tata) must be making that statement with some kind of knowledge and information. I cannot comment on that."

The minister, however, did not lose an opportunity to make a point saying that may be the reason why the Opposition, which has been demanding a JPC probe into the 2G issue and has disrupted Parliament proceedings and does not want a debate on it.

Tata on Thursday said that many of the flip-flops in the telecom policies occurred during the BJP regime.

Tatas were accused by Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar for not being transparent and being one of the biggest beneficiaries of the government telecom policy.

Tata has noted the government auditor CAG has not ascribed any value to 48 new GSM licences issued to incumbents during 2004-2008 and 65 mhz of additional spectrum.