A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court on Friday slammed the bureau’s charge sheet against Bharti Airtel and Vodafone in the 2G spectrum allocation scam for not naming any company official as accused.
While deferring a decision on taking cognisance on the charge sheet till March 19, special CBI judge O P Saini told the investigative agency’s prosecutor a conspiracy required two parties. “You are only blaming the government person. There should also be a private person. Only then is there a conspiracy,” Saini said.
The investigative agency had named former telecom secretary Shyamal Ghosh and three private companies---Bharti Cellular (now Bharti Airtel), Hutchison Max and Sterling Cellular (now Vodafone Essar)---as accused in the case that dates back to 2002, when Pramod Mahajan was telecom minister in the National Democratic Alliance government.
CBI told the court despite its best efforts, it hadn’t been able to trace the conspirator. “So many people have been there in parts, but no one has been present as a whole in the process of filing of applications. The company has been taken over and renamed during the course of this process,” said CBI lawyer K K Goyal.
Saini also questioned CBI on the companies’ managing directors (MDs). “There are two MDs and one of them is also a director in another (accused) company,” Goyal said.
In the last hearing, Saini had asked CBI to submit papers related to the board resolution passed by the accused companies for seeking additional spectrum. CBI, however, told the court no such resolution had been passed and the companies had applied for additional spectrum since it was considered important. Then, the companies had raised the matter with the Cellular Operators Authority of India.
The CBI lawyer said filing an application and pursuing it weren’t offences. “Persuasion to do a conspiracy is criminal. We could not find the person who persuaded the government official,” Goyal said.
Goyal said Ghosh, along with former telecom minister Pramod Mahajan, had abused his position as a public person and showed undue favour to beneficiary companies, resulting in a loss of Rs 846.44 crore to the exchequer. CBI alleged this also led to incidental gains for other telecom companies. This was because for spectrum beyond 6.2 MHz, an additional one per cent adjusted gross revenue was charged, instead of the required two per cent.