‘Sibal, Vahanvati role in 2G scam be probed’

New Delhi: An NGO on Thursday moved the Supreme Court seeking CBI probe against Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal and Attorney General G E Vahanvati for allegedly favouring Reliance Infocom on the penalty over 2G licences and bypassing of rules to give opinion to former minister A Raja respectively.

The application filed by Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) alleged that Sibal reduced the penalty to Rs five crore from Rs 650 crore against Anil Ambani-headed RCOM for violations in the UASL agreement.

Regarding Vahanvati, it alleged that he disregarded the Law Ministry in giving opinion to Raja on 2G spectrum when he was Solicitor General in UPA-I government.

"Sibal abused his position as minister to over-rule the unanimous view taken by senior DoT officials including the Telecom Secretary, to benefit a private operator by closing the issue with only a penalty of Rs 5 crore.

"This abuse of authority by him to benefit Anil Ambani controlled Reliance Infocomm needs a thorough investigation by the CBI," the application said.

The NGO annexed the documents to buttress the allegation that DoT officials were unanimous that Reliance group should be imposed penalty of Rs 50 crore per circle for "violation of the terms and conditions of Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) agreement and UASL agreement by voluntary, unilateral and unauthorized switching-off/closure of services to subscribers from USOF sites without any notice."

The matter is likely to come up for hearing on July 11.

The NGO claimed that instead of imposing Rs 650 crore for violation of agreement conditions in 13 circles, Sibal reduced the amount to Rs five crore.

"DoT had issued notice for a penalty of Rs. 50 crore. If the same was imposed for all 13 circles in which Reliance had USOF agreements, the fine would rise to Rs. 650 crores. A detailed explanation was later also prepared by Director USOF Branch explaining why the penalty needs to be imposed," the application said.

Raising questions on the role of Vahanvati, the NGO said that he had rendered advice to Raja disregarding the basic rule that senior law officers has to give any opinion through the proper channel of Law Ministry.

"Under the terms of service of a law officer (AG/SG), no ministry can directly seek the advice/opinion of a law officer without routing it through the law ministry, and no law officer can give any opinion/advice to any department without it being routed through the law ministry.

"But Vahanvati, disregarded these basic rules, and continued to give opinions to the DoT under Raja which were then used by him to justify his decisions and actions," it said.

The fact that AG disregarded the rule has also been stated by the Public Accounts Committee which in its report expressed "shock" that Vahanvati travelled beyond his mandate when the law ministry was of the view that the matter has to be referred to the EGoM.

The NGO further said that the AG has wrongly given green signal for grant of license to Swan Telecom, allegedly a front company of RCOM.

"When questions were repeatedly being raised about Swan Telecom, including by the DoT itself, Vahanvati again went out of his way to give a clean chit to Swan," the application said adding that the involvement of Vahanvati in the 2G spectrum scam also needs thorough investigation".