Probe panel on telecom licences to give report in four weeks

Last Updated: Mon, Dec 13, 2010 14:00 hrs

New Delhi, Dec 13 (IANS) Former Supreme Court judge Shivraj V. Patil, heading the panel probing the procedures in award of airwaves for second generation (2G) telecom services, Monday said he has started the 'onerous' task and will try to complete it in four weeks.

'I have been asked to probe the appropriateness of procedures followed by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in issuing the licences and allocation of spectrum between 2001 and 2009,' Patil told reporters here, spelling out his terms of reference.

His job, the former judge added was to only give a report and not make any suggestions. Accordingly, he will only examine the testimonies of officials, if required, and not summon any past or serving ministers.

'It is an onerous and great responsibility. I will complete the probe expeditiously. It may take a week more or a week less,' Justice Patil said.

His comments sought to clear the air over the appointment of this one-man committee, as the Public Accounts Committee of parliament, under BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, is also probing the matter and felt the government's move could amount to impropriety.

Justice Patil's probe started even as the communications ministry started serving notices to those firms that had failed to comply with the roll-out norms for 2G telecom services as also those that had not disclosed their proper corporate structure.

Communications Minister Kapil Sibal had said there were 119 cases where these roll-out obligations were not met and 85 cases where firms had manipulated the self-certification process about their financial strength and main line of business to get the licences.

Last week, India's telecom watchdog had recommended scrapping of 69 of the 130 licences given for 2G phone services since December 2006. Of these, 20 had been issued to Loop, 15 to Etisalat DB, 11 to Sistema-Shyam, 10 to Videocon, 8 to Uninor, and 5 to Aircel.

The licences stipulate coverage of at least 90 percent of the areas in metro centres within one year. In non-metro areas, 10 percent of the towns must be covered in the first year and 50 percent within three years.

The terms of reference of the one-man committee include:

- Study the circumstances that led to the formulation of the New Telecom Policy of 1999

- Examine the internal procedures since 2001 to issue licences and allocate airwaves

- Examine if procedures were followed consistently

- Report on deviation from procedures, if any

- Examine if procedures adopted were fair and transparent

- Identify the officials involved in deficiencies, if any

- Identify the shortcomings and lapses, if any, in the implementation of procedures