Though former telecom minister A Raja all along maintained that he had committed no irregularity in granting new licences in 2008 and went by the recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, the then Trai chairman Nripendra Misra had contradicted him and charged that the minister had cherry-picked from his recommendations.
Misra had said in November 2010 that “the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) never sought Trai’s recommendations on the need and timing of granting new licences as required under the Trai Act”. Further, “it never made any reference to the regulator on fixing any cut-off date for accepting the
“There’s a clear-cut provision in the Trai Act that the government needs to seek Trai’s recommendations on the and timing of granting new licences. As early as 2006 I had written to the DoT highlighting this and kept on writing on the matter even after the licences were granted. The final response from the DoT secretary came in July, 2008 stating that it is not incumbent on the government to seek Trai’s views and no further purpose would be served by engaging in any further discussions on the subject”.
“There was never any reference made to us on granting new licences, the reference was with regard to allowing dual technology, meaning whether firms providing CDMA services should also be given spectrum to provide GSM services. Here also even before it was officially announced that our recommendations have been accepted permission to one company was given,” Misra said.
“The DoT decided on a cut-off date of October 1, 2007 which was later advanced to September 25, for accepting applications. Our recommendation was never sought, it was a unilateral decision of the DoT,” Misra had said. “While we did not recommend auction of spectrum we did say that the current market dynamism requires that the market price for licences be reassessed, which was ignored,” Misra had added.
The biggest deviation made by Raja was with regard to merger and acquisition, which later enabled firms like Unitech Wireless (now Uninor) and Swan (now Etisalat) to sell substantial equity to Telenor and Etisalat, respectively. “The Trai recommendation was for banning the new licensees from any M&A for 3 years till when they were required to complete their roll out obligations. While the DoT disallowed merger it allowed acquisition thus de-linking the two and diluting the performance obligation on the new operators,” Misra had stated. FE