Tearing into the CBI chargesheet in the allocation of additional spectrum during the rule of the previous NDA government, a special court Thursday said it had been filed for “extraneous reasons” with “redacted and garbled facts” and gave a clean chit to former Telecom Secretary Shyamal Ghosh and three telecom firms accused in the case.
Special Judge O P Saini, while discharging Ghosh and Hutchison Max (P) Ltd, Sterling Cellular Ltd and Bharti Cellular Ltd of charges of criminal conspiracy and under sections of Prevention of Corruption Act, came down heavily on the probe agency and directed the CBI Director to “conduct an inquiry against the erring officials” and “take action against them”.
“I find that there is no incriminating material on record against the accused and the accused deserve to be discharged…The chargesheet has been found to full of distorted and fabricated facts and an attempt has been made to mislead the court. Director, CBI is directed to conduct an inquiry against the erring officials and take action against them as per law,” Saini said in his order. The court also pulled up the agency for “creating an impression” that “demand” for additional spectrum began on the joining of then Telecom Minister, the late Pramod Mahajan.
“It (chargesheet) has been drafted as to create an impression of a grave crime, where there is none. An attempt has been made to create an impression in the chargesheet that everything was done in the dark hours of evening of 31 January, 2002. There is no doubt that the chargesheet has been filed for extraneous reasons,” Saini said.
In the present additional spectrum case, it was alleged by the CBI that Ghosh, in conspiracy with the accused telecom companies, allocated spectrum beyond 6.6 MHz up to 10 MHz to the firms by charging on 1 per cent of AGR (adjusted gross revenue) when, as per past analogy, it should have been 2 per cent, that is 1 per cent each for two tranches of 1.8 MHz.
It was alleged that the allocation led to a loss of Rs 846.44 crore to the public exchequer. Raising serious doubts over the CBI probe, the court said that attempts have been made by the agency to “distract the attention of the court” by withholding “important documents”. It also rapped the CBI for placing “irrelevant documents… only to burden the court”.
Saini said the CBI had “no idea as to what their case is all about” and “what document they are relying upon and what documents they are not relying” that led to the alleged loss. The CBI was also slammed for “concealing documents” like those pertaining to the recommendations of TRAI that dealt with allocation of additional spectrum, including files relating to “processing and disposal of application of companies” made in 1999 and 2000 for additional spectrum.
“All these documents are important documents for disposal of the case and the conduct of the prosecution in relegating most of these documents to a distant stage by not making them part of documents initially filed with the chargesheet and then dubbing them as unrelied upon and not placing on record certain documents having important bearing on the case, cannot be approved of. It has resulted in distorting understanding of the case,” the court said.
On the CBI allegation that a “hasty decision” to allocate additional spectrum was taken by Pramod Mahajan on the recommendation of Ghosh, the court stated that “though the views of officers and ministers were different”, the matter of additional spectrum was “discussed at least four times in the department”.
“The aforesaid discussion clearly indicates that matter was discussed and debated in the department and, as such, it cannot be said that it was a decision taken unilaterally in haste and without concurrence or consultation with Member (Finance),” it said.