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Ambit Of Probe Into Spectrum Allocation Needs To Be Widened: SC

New Delhi, Dec 8: The Supreme Court today said the ambit of investigations by the CBI into the 2G spectrum allocation scam needs to be widened by looking into the events of 2001 when the
PTI December 08, 2010 20:02 IST
New Delhi, Dec 8: The Supreme Court today said the ambit of investigations by the CBI into the 2G spectrum allocation scam needs to be widened by looking into the events of 2001 when the NDA government introduced the controversial first-come-first-served policy for spectrum allocation.

"The issue raised in the case is not limited to only Rs 1.76 lakh crore but has a much wider compass. We would not like to prejudice the probe. But, what happened in 2001 needs to be looked into. It is for the CBI to investigate and find out," a bench of justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly said.

The judges' remarks assume importance as former Telecom Minister A Raja has maintained that he was treading on the footsteps of his predecessors and was following the 2001 policy.

While questioning the practicality of the telecom policy allocating spectrum at the 2001 rate in 2007-08, the Bench said it was an "absurd" policy and taunted the government to supply petrol at the 2001 rates.

"In these days of spiralling rates why do you give it for a song. Every action has to be tested on the touchstone of legality.

"In this commercial world nobody is a BPL. They are all commercial (companies). Why don't you give us petrol at 2001 price policy. It is an absurd policy. Even if you call it a policy," the court said.

The judges also raised questions about the policy of transfer of dual technology -- CDMA and GSM, saying while the notification for the dual technology was issued on October 19, 2007, one of the service provider was given the permission a day earlier.

"What T R Addhyarujina (counsel for A Raja) has pointed out is one thing more than what meets the eyes," the bench, which reserved its verdict on the plea seeking monitoring of the probe into the scam by the apex court, said.

The bench further said that even the CAG has not gone into the issue of dual technology.

"This matter has not been investigated," the bench said.

Senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for the CBI, apprised the Bench of the progress of the investigations into the scam by giving fresh updates that the agency has raided the houses of Raja and others in the national capital, Chennai and Bengaluru.

While the agency has been pressing hard that the court should maintain that the reports about the probe should not go into public domain, the Bench said, "You want to maintain secrecy but every TV channel is showing the raids being conducted by you."

"Now there is no secrecy. This (raid) is on TV," the Bench said adding that "all the raids will become public."

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), which has sought monitoring of the probe by the apex court, said "the raids conducted by the CBI today is a meaningless exercise."

He said the agency sat for around a year after the complaints regarding the scam were made by Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy and others.

Instead of acting on the complaints, the CBI registered the FIR (against unknown persons) almost a year after on October 21, 2009. Those facts for which the CBI conducted raids today were known to it since the registration of the FIR," he said adding that that the agency was not serious in its probe.

"They said raids were conducted at the office of the Department of Telecommunication. If they were serious enough they should have raided them (Raja and others) then and there," he said.

"What is the purpose of raids today?" Bhushan questioned and added that only after the apex court issued notice in the case, the agency started with the serious investigation.

At this point, the Bench observed "it is better late than never".

Venugopal reiterated that the probe into the scam will be completed by February but it will be limited within the country as more time will be needed for touching its tentacles abroad.

The senior advocate said the court can pass the orders and directions in the sealed cover after going through the comprehensive report of the investigation which will be submitted by February.

The bench, meanwhile, ruled out CBI's suggestion that the court should deliver its orders and directions in the 2G spectrum case in a sealed cover.

"The functioning of the court and the hearing of the case or the order of the court is not influenced by any criticism. Whether its a munsif court or the Supreme Court, it has to act in its wisdom keeping in mind the Constitution and the public interest," the bench said, dismissing the CBI's suggestion.

The bench said the hearing in the case is being done in open court and everything has been reported and added that despite there being some distortion at times in the (news) reports, all this will have no effect on the court proceedings.

"Giving orders in sealed covers may not be conducive to administration of justice. It is not warranted as it will give rise to speculation, rather wide speculation......", the court reiterated.

"Let us go by our own norms," the bench observed.

At this point, Venugopal said it is for the court to decide whether to deliver its orders in a sealed cover or in the open court.

The Enforcement Directorate, meanwhile, submitted its report on its probe into the scam to the court in a sealed cover.

Submitting its report to the court, Additional Solicitor General Haren Rawal told the bench that it contains details of the investigation since March 9, 2010 in the case that was registered under Prevention of Money Laundering Act and Foreign Exchange Management Act.

He said the probe was carried on the basis of the case related to the scam, registered by the CBI on October 21, 2009. PTI