Former telecom minister A Raja’s first-come-first-served policy was used as a tool to favour “non-serious” applicants, ignoring the request of “serious and established players,” according to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) draft report on the 2G spectrum scandal.
The panel expressed shock over how by “devising a capricious and opaque procedure,” the applications submitted between March, 2006, and September, 2007, were issued letters of intent on a single day and asked to fulfill conditions to collect them within less than an hour as against the prescribed 15 days.
“Evidently, the chosen companies had foreknowledge of such a novel method with the result they were able to fulfill the conditions of bank guarantees and demand drafts drawn on dates prior to the cut-off date by the DoT,” the report said. It recommended that the Department of Telecom revisit the first-come-first served, or FCFS, criterion, adopted by it in the grant of spectrum, and ensure that it is not misused and abused if it preferred to continue with it.
“Much to the consternation of the Committee, the FCFS basis as adopted by the DoT, notwithstanding its merits and demerits was not followed in letter and spirit as is evident from the fact that applications submitted between March, 2006, and 25th September, 2007, were issued LoIs simultaneously on 10th January, 2008,” the PAC report said.
It also found that the procedure followed prior to June, 2008, was that the date of receipt of application in DoT was reckoned for the purpose of FCFS which was changed to the date of issue of LoI in an abrupt and arbitrary departure from the extant practice.
It deplored the “brazen manner” in which the LoIs were issued despite assurance to the prime minister that the processing of applications would be done in consonance with the extant practice and full transparency maintained in the DoT.
The PAC was of the view that FCFS had no sanctity as it was not mentioned anywhere in the UASL guidelines. Raja had approved the proposal to give licence spectrum on FCFS basis and it was mentioned in the Basic Service Licences guidelines. “The greatest demerit of the FCFS criterion is that there is every possibility of exclusion of the best applicant’s offer. And that was what exactly happened in the grant of UAS licences in 2007-08,” it said.
The committee quoted former DoT secretary DS Mathur as submitting that the extant policy in the allocation of UAS licences was not permitted to be used properly. Another former secretary Siddharta Behura testified that interse seniority should be determined by the date of application, a condition he had included in the draft press note in October, 2008, which was deleted by the minister.
Former TRAI chairman Nripendra Misra had emphasised that all those who complete the formality of the LoIs within 15 days should remain in the same order as on the application date, the report said. Economic Times