Shahid Balwa pleads not guilty in 2G case

Shahid Balwa pleads not guilty in 2G case

New Delhi: DB Realty Ltd promoter Shahid Balwa on Monday pleaded not guilty in the so-called 2G scam case, citing that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said there was no loss to the government or anything wrong with the policy on second-generation (2G) spectrum allocation.

Balwa also blamed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for being “biased" and hatching a conspiracy with older telecom operators to eliminate competition from new entrants, such as Swan Telecom.

Balwa’s lawyer Majeed Memontold the court hearing the 2G case that his client was being victimized, possibly because he was instrumental in breaking a cartel of existing operators. Singh had endorsed the telecom policy in Parliament on 24 February, 16 months after a first information report had been filed in the case, Memon said. “How am I guilty then?"

Balwa demanded that the CBI should declare what the exact loss to the exchequer has been because of the allocation of spectrum in 2008. This can’t be based on notional value, he said.

Balwa’s lawyer argued that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had said in a 26 May 2008 letter to the department of telecommunications (DoT), while responding to a Parliament query, that keeping in view the growth of the economy, consumer interest and to create a level-playing field among the new entrants and existing operators, the entry fee should be the same as that levied on the fourth entrant in 2003.

“Non-revision and non-auction are the government’s policy taken by the highest authorities in the executive," Memon argued on behalf of Balwa. “If I got licence based on such recommendation, how am I at fault? Why am I in jail?"

Balwa accused CBI of trying to create suspicion in people’s mind.

“Hundreds of licences were given between 2001 and 2008 based on the same policy and the same entrant fee. Just a year before we got spectrum, in March 2007, Vodafone got the licence like this. Nobody had a problem. The CBI is highlighting 2001 and 2008, when in the preceding year there was allocation of spectrum based on the same policy. It is meant to create suspicion," he said.

Balwa also asked the investigating agency to clarify if Swan Telecom was ineligible for a licence on 10 January 2008, when the spectrum was allocated, or on 2 March 2007, when the company had applied.

Mint had reported on 15 April that the CBI had in its possession DoT documents that suggest Swan was given a second chance to comply with telecom rules.

Sahil Makkar contributed to this story.