The former Telecom Secretary, Siddhartha Behura, told the special CBI court on Thursday that his former boss A. Raja had, through a letter dated December 26, 2007, informed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of the Department of Telecom’s intention to grant UAS licences to applicant companies that first complied with the conditions of the Letter of Intent (LoI).
He alleged that the officials who “concurred” with changing the first-come, first-served policy to one where licences were issued to those who complied with the LoI conditions first were let off. Though he had joined DoT on January 1, 2008 and was not involved in formulating the policy, he was charge-sheeted.
Making a reference to Attorney-General of India G. E. Vahanvati, who was then Solicitor-General, senior advocate and Mr. Behura’s counsel Aman Lekhi said that Mr. Raja, in his letter, had told the Prime Minister that the policy on LoI compliance “has been concurred by the Solicitor-General of India during the discussions.”
Dr. Singh had responded to Mr. Raja on January 3, 2008, with a two-line letter which said: “I have received your letter of December 26, 2007, regarding the recent developments in the telecom sector.” Mr. Lekhi claimed that with the December 26 letter to the Prime Minister, the plans of Mr. Raja had become a “policy directive.”
Referring to the controversial press release of January 10, 2008, which invited applicants to collect LoIs, Mr. Lekhi said that it was Mr. Behura who inserted in it the sentence: “However, if more than one applicant complies with LoI condition on the same date, the inter-se seniority would be decided by the date of application.” This was later crossed out by Mr. Raja, who then noted: “Press release approved as amended.”
Mr. Raja had claimed on Tuesday that he crossed out this line because it contradicted the first-come, first-served policy that was decided by the Ministry to issue UAS licences to those who complied with the LoI conditions first. In his arguments, Mr. Raja had alleged that this policy was approved by Mr. Vahanvati.
Mr. Lekhi said: “If Mr. Behura’s stipulation was not crossed out, it would have modified the telecom policy that was approved. The suggestion of Mr. Behura in the press release was overruled and overridden…The man — who had shown that changing the policy as laid down in the letter of December 26, 2007, would have benefitted Spice Communications and not Swan Telecom — is made an accused. All those who concurred with the December 26 letter are left out of the charge sheet except for the Minister, and the man who objected is made an accused.”
Counsel alleged that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was attempting to paint Mr. Behura as a “superman who brought to fruition the policy of the government, overriding all opposition”. The charge that Mr. Behura devised four counters at Sanchar Bhawan on January 10, 2008, to grant licences so as to benefit selected companies was unfounded as the Access Service Cell had only four directors, Mr. Lekhi said.
He also pointed out that the CBI’s statements of witnesses who are employees of applicant companies, who had come to Sanchar Bhawan on that day, did not indicate that any of them had a grievance on the manner in which LoIs were issued.
Mr. Lekhi blamed the disappearance of Tata’s application for dual technology spectrum on Joint Wireless Advisor R. J. S. Kushwaha, who is a CBI prosecution witness. He also alleged that the CBI’s star witness, Deputy Director General A. K. Srivastava, played a “dubious role”, and that Mr. Kushwaha and another Telecom official D. Jha were “holding a mandate” for another company seeking spectrum. Hindu