Airtel and Vodafone face CBI for procuring additional 2G spectrum during NDA regime

Telecom Lead India: Airtel and Vodafone will face the music soon for procuring additional 2G spectrum during the NDA regime.

CBI’s prosecution against Airtel, Vodafone and former telecom secretary Shyamal Ghosh will focus on alleged irregularities in allocation of additional spectrum.

These operators have bagged spectrum based on mobile subscriber additions. It is interesting to note that most of the Indian telecom operators have started reporting actual number of mobile subscribers as currently 2G spectrum is not allocated based on user-base.

A bench of Justices G S Singhvi and K S Radhakrishnan on Thursday said: “The CBI director (A P Singh) is the highest authority within the organization and he had taken a particular view. Since he is the final authority, the agency should take action as per his view.”

On November 19 last year, the CBI had registered a preliminary inquiry to look into the allocation of spectrum during the tenure of late Pramod Mahajan to certain companies beyond the prescribed limit.

In the FIR, the agency had alleged that the Department of Telecom had increased the base spectrum for telecom companies from 4.4 MHz to 6.2 MHz during Mahajan’s tenure from 2001 to 2003 and also allocated extra spectrum on subscriber-based criteria, Times of India reported.

During the recently concluded 2G spectrum auction, Airtel bought additional spectrum in one telecom circle — Assam. Though Vodafone spent funds for buying top up spectrum, the U.K.-based telecom giant was not keen to buy spectrum in a significant way.

If CBI, which is likely to question Airtel promoter Sunil Mittal, could find enough evidence on additional 2G spectrum allocation, it will be a big blow for India’s number one telecom operator.

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