AP Singh tells Public Accounts Committee that the investigative agency initially opposed Supreme Court monitoring the 2G case on legal grounds, but agreed to supervision after realising gravity of the matter
New Delhi: Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director AP Singh is said to have contradicted telecom minister Kapil Sibal on his claim that there was "zero loss" to the national exchequer from the 2G spectrum allocation. Mr Singh was deposing before Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on the issue which is also being investigated by the CBI.
"As far as he (Mr Singh) has seen the case, to say 'zero loss' is wrong," PAC chairman Murli Manohar Joshi told a news conference on Tuesday evening after the meeting, reports PTI.
According to a member of the PAC, the CBI chief said that it would be "wrong to say that there was zero sum loss in the allocation of 2G spectrum on first-come-first-serve basis."
The reported remark by the CBI chief contradicts Mr Sibal, who had said a couple of weeks ago that the 2G spectrum allocation had caused "zero loss" to the exchequer and even rubbished as "utterly erroneous" the CAG's calculation that the presumptive loss was to the tune of Rs1.76 lakh crore.
The CBI has, in its FIR on the 2G case, estimated that the losses could go up to Rs22,000 crore.
The CBI director was also asked about the methodology the agency had used to estimate the loss caused by alleged irregularities in spectrum allocation. He admitted that he was not able to accurately quantify the loss to the exchequer as his focus was on unravelling the criminal aspect of the irregularities. He also told the PAC that he would get back to it on the matter.
To questions on whether the former telecom minister Arun Shourie would be called by the PAC, Mr Joshi said that the CBI has already asked Mr Shourie to appear before it on 21st February.
According to sources, the CBI director was also asked why the agency had initially taken a position against the Supreme Court monitoring the 2G case. Mr Singh is said to have told the PAC that the initial position was based on certain legal grounds, but that when the agency realised the gravity of the situation it agreed to the supervision by the Court.
Most of the questions from the PAC members were taken by CBI deputy inspector general SK Palsania as Mr Singh took over as CBI director only on 30th November last year.
On the matter of Mr Sibal's remarks on the CAG report, Mr Joshi said this was an an insult to the parliamentary system. He said that he had written to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar about Mr Sibal's comments on the CAG.
Mr Joshi said that he had received a reply from the Speaker and that the members of the PAC were of the opinion that the issue should be discussed further with the Speaker. "I will be meeting the Speaker to discuss the matter," he said.
To a question about prime minister Manmohan Singh's offer to appear before the PAC, Mr Joshi said his letter is with the PAC. "If a decision is taken, you will come to know," Mr Joshi said. He also said that the prime minister's office had provided a lot of information to the PAC and more information is being sought from it.
On the possibility of summoning Mr Sibal, he said that a decision would be taken by the PAC members.
Asked whether the PAC would lose relevance if the government decided to set up a Joint Parliamentary Committee to look into the issue, Mr Joshi said, "PAC is a constitutional body and it will continue with its work." He said that the PAC would not be affected by any such decision. "If the Supreme Court is doing its work, if the CBI and PAC are doing their work, the JPC will also do its work," Mr Joshi said.
"Who got the licences... how FCFS was implemented; this was never discussed with me nor was it brought to the Cabinet. This was exclusively the telecom minister's decision," prime minister Manmohan Singh said in an interaction with the editors from the electronic media
New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today asserted he was not aware of the methodology of the controversial First-Come First-Serve (FCFS) policy followed for second generation (2G) spectrum allocation by disgraced former telecom minister A Raja, which resulted in a huge scam estimated to be up to Rs1.76 lakh crore, reports PTI.
"Who got the licences... how FCFS was implemented; this was never discussed with me nor was it brought to the Cabinet.
This was exclusively the telecom minister's decision," Mr Singh said in an interaction with the editors from the electronic media.
He, however, said that since the ministries of finance and telecom had agreed to continue with the existing policy of allocating 2G spectrum, "I did not feel that I was in a position to insist that auction must be insisted."
The government auditor CAG had estimated a presumptive loss of up to Rs1.76 lakh crore due to sale of spectrum in 2008 at 2001 prices.
This had forced Mr Raja to resign from the Union cabinet in November last year and was followed by his arrest on spectrum 2G scam charges.
On retaining Mr Raja as the telecom minister in the UPA-II, the prime minister said in a coalition government, the choices of the leaders of the alliance partners have to be accepted and that the DMK had suggested Mr Raja and Mr Dayanidhi Maran into the Union cabinet.
"At that moment, there was no reason to feel that anything wrong had been done", the prime minister said.
Mr Singh said in his letter to Mr Raja in November 2007, one of the issues he asked him was to look at "the possibility of technical and legal angle of having an auction of spectrum".
"Mr Raja wrote back to me almost on the same day our letters crossed and he said I (Mr Raja) have been absolutely transparent in my dealings and will be doing so in the future.
"You have my assurance that I have done nothing and will do nothing which will not be consistent with the promise that I make", Mr Singh quoted Mr Raja as replying to his letter.
"As far as auction is concerned he came back to me and said auction is something which has not been suggested by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and the Telecom Commission," the prime minister said.
"... He (Mr Raja) also said that if we had auction it would not give a level playing field for the new comers because the existing players have got the spectrum free of charge up to a certain mega hertz.
"And therefore he said the TRAI's advice, the Telecom Commission's advice and his (Mr Raja's) own view was that auctions are not the right way forward as far as 2G spectrum is concerned and he also mentioned in a subsequent letter that he is agreeable to auction 3G Spectrum but with regard to 2G spectrum he was very clear that we should stay with the then existing approach", Mr Singh said.
He said this was also discussed with the finance ministry because in terms of the cabinet decision of 2003, the pricing and allocation of the spectrum was to be settled between the ministry of finance and the telecommunication department.
Initially, the ministry of finance did ask for a high price for 2G spectrum but after many discussions that the two ministries agreed that as far as the 2G is concerned they will have to live with the present system, especially with regard to the amount of spectrum built and embedded in the licence agreement.
"So this is the background why I did not proceed with the matter of spectrum allocation because if the MoF and the ministry of telecom both agree and they have the obligation of the Cabinet of 2003 and also TRAI and Telecom Commission, since if all of them were of the same view, I did not think it was right to insist that auction was the right way," Mr Singh said.
On sale of spectrum by some companies after getting its allocation, Mr Singh said he was not aware of their motives.
"I do not know frankly speaking what was the motivation of the people who got spectrum but I do know that as far as the basic policy is concerned that I thought was then the prevailing practice and Mr Raja was continuing that policy.
"As far as who gets licence, the first-come-first-serve policy, how it is implemented, that was never discussed with me, licences were not a matter which ever got referred to me or the Cabinet that was a decision exclusively of the telecom minister.
"Subsequent, events have shown that two companies (Swan and Unitech) sold there equity, but I was told that they have sold it in a manner to dilute equity of the promoters.
"Now, if they have to roll out the requirement and that money can be raised either by way of borrowings or by way of diluting equity by getting people, therefore, at that stage I did not think that I should intervene in that affair," he added.
Addressing editors of the electronic media, prime minister Manmohan Singh said the government is trying to strike a balance between growth and inflation, despite having no control over international events, which are partly fuelling the price rise
New Delhi: Exuding confidence that inflation will fall to 7% by March-end, prime minister Manmohan Singh today said the government was trying to tackle the situation without hurting growth, which he pegged at around 8.5% for the entire fiscal, reports PTI.
Addressing editors of the electronic media, Mr Singh said the government is trying to strike a balance between growth and inflation, despite the government having no control over international events, which are partly fuelling the price rise.
"By the end of this (fiscal) year, inflation rate should come down to no more than 7%," he said.
He said inflation, particularly that of food has been a major concern in recent months, but the government was trying to deal the situation without hurting growth prospects.
Food inflation has been hovering above 15% in the past few months before falling to 13.07% in the last week of January.
Mr Singh said the government is trying its best to deal with inflation, but "we don't have at our disposal" instruments to insulate the Indian economy from international events such as the developments in Egypt, which have resulted in spiralling crude oil prices.
"We don't have control over international events... oil prices are rising, food prices are also rising," Mr Singh said.
Commenting on economic growth, Mr Singh said India has done well to come out of the aftermath of the global financial crisis and "our economy is in a good shape. We will have a growth rate of 8.5% this fiscal year."