The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Indian high commission in Malaysia to extend full cooperation to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in its probe into the Aircel-Maxis case, which involved former telecom minister Dayanidhi Maran.
Earlier, in a hearing on the 2G telecom spectrum scam, the CBI had stated a “politically powerful person” in that country was scuttling investigation there. Though authorities in Mauritius were cooperating, it was difficult to complete the investigation in Malaysia, CBI counsel K K Venugopal had told a bench headed by judge G S Singhvi.
Venugopal said information from Malaysia was necessary to establish the necessary links between the Maxis investment in Aircel through Mauritius. Investigation into the case in India has been completed.
In the hearing on Thursday, the Supreme Court took umbrage at the Delhi High Court, which had, yesterday, issued a notice to the Centre on a petition of a telecom company for quashing charges in the 2G scam. Last year, the Supreme Court had stated no court should take up issues related to the scam or pass stay orders on these. Therefore, the high court’s order was surprising, the bench stated.
Senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi, who argued for Essar Teleholding in the high court yesterday, said the company did not seek a stay. Such a blanket order from the Supreme Court would deprive people of their rights and all aggrieved people would then have to approach the Supreme Court, he said, adding, it was for Parliament to make such a rule. To this, the court said if it wanted, Parliament could make such a rule. However, according to the earlier order, no court in the country could take up such petitions, it added.
Centre for Public Interest Litigation counsel Prashant Bhushan said the entire CBI hierarchy was in favour of filing a charge sheet against Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Mittal and his company. However, the director of prosecution had objected to this. Therefore, the matter had been referred to the attorney general. Bhushan said this wasn’t necessary, as all CBI officers involved in the probe favoured filing a charge sheet.
Venugopal, however, opposed this. He cited the CBI manual to show if there was a difference of opinion in such a matter, the opinion of the attorney general could be sought. Also, all CBI officers did not agree on the charge sheet, he added. Since this matter had to be argued in detail, the hearing was adjourned till November 19.
The counsel also read the status reports of the CBI and Central Vigilance Commission on the investigations, following which the court asked the authorities to take “appropriate action”, as suggested by the reports.
The Cellular Operators Association of India and Idea Cellular had, in a petition, complained after the cancellation of the 122 licences in the February judgment, the government was withholding spectrum, owing to which many aspirants wouldn’t be able to secure licences. About 170 MHz of spectrum was available, and this should be auctioned, they said.
The court asked Additional Solicitor General Harin Raval to get the government’s opinion on this allegation and present it before the court tomorrow.
Another petition, by the Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India, alleged the spectrum available wasn’t fully allocated. It added the terms were not fair. The court issued a notice to the government and asked it to reply on the matter within two months. Unified Telecom Service Providers of India includes Tata Teleservices and Reliance Communications.