Citizens' Issues
DoT gives files to CBI in probe of spectrum during NDA rule

CBI was seeking these files in connection with its probe into increase of spectrum bandwidth for Airtel and Vodafone when Pramod Mahajan was telecom minister during the NDA regime

New Delhi: Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has handed over 15 files sought by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with its probe into increase of spectrum bandwidth for Airtel and Vodafone between 2001 and 2003 during when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was in power, reports PTI.
The agency, which is likely to file a chargesheet in the case in the first week of October, had sought certified copies of the files pertaining to increase of spectrum beyond 4.4 MHz upto 6.2 MHz, beyond 6.2 MHz up to 8 MHz, and beyond 8MHz up to 10 MHz to these companies when late Pramod Mahajan was the telecom minister, official sources said on Monday.
The CBI had registered a case against the then Telecom Secretary Shyamal Ghosh and Deputy Director General (Value Added Services) JR Gupta and unknown officials of Bharti Cellular (now known as Bharti Airtel), and Hutchinson Max and Sterling Cellular (now known as Vodafone Essar) last November.
Both Bharti Airtel and Vodafone have, however, denied the allegation levelled against them saying they had always maintained the highest standards of corporate governance and regulatory compliance.
A letter from Assistant Wireless Advisor MK Patnaik to CBI's Deputy Superintendent of Police RA Yadav listed all the 15 files pertaining to the decision of increasing the spectrum bandwidth of the two telecom operators, the sources said.
CBI has sought certified copies of licenses, amendments issued by wireless planning and coordination wing of the ministry and subsequent additional spectrum issued to them.
They said documents related to additional spectrum allocation to three companies--beyond 4.4 MHz up to 6.2 MHz, beyond 6.2 MHz up to 8 MHz, and beyond 8MHz up to 10 MHz--should be provided to the agency "urgently".
The Telecom department has communicated to CBI that no wireless operating licenses were issued to Bharti Airtel for Mumbai service area, they said.
The agency is giving final touches to its charge sheet in connection with spectrum allocation done during the tenure of NDA government in which it is likely to name the companies along with then officials of Telecom Department for allegedly entering into a criminal conspiracy to get the spectrum in violation of norms, the sources said.
CBI had registered a case against Ghosh, Gupta and two Telecom service providers Airtel and Vodafone for alleged irregularities in grant of additional spectrum.
The CBI had alleged in its FIR that 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.
The case against the then DoT official, Bharti Cellular (now known as Bharti Airtel), and Hutchinson Max and Sterling Cellular (now known as Vodafone Essar) was registered under 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and various sections of Prevention of Corruption Act, the CBI alleged. Gupta retired as Director, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited.
"The then Minister for Telecom and Communication (Pramod Mahajan) has been excluded since he expired," the CBI had said in a statement but alleged that he was a part of criminal conspiracy to allocate the additional spectrum in a "hurried" manner.
BJP leader Mahajan was the Telecom Minister during 2001-03.


Government decides to deallocate one more mine

With de-allocation of Gourangdih ABC, jointly given to JSW Steel and Himachal EMTA, the government has approved cancellation of licenses of five coal blocks, out of a total seven recommended by the IMG

New Delhi: The Union Government on Monday decided to de-allocate one more mine - Gourangdih ABC-- jointly given to JSW Steel and Himachal EMTA besides deduction of bank guarantees of two allottees for failing to develop mines within time, reports PTI.


This follows the recommendation made by Inter-Ministerial group (IMG) which is scrutinising 29 blocks awarded to the private parties out of the total 58 which were given show cause notices for delays in development and some of these find mention in CAG report.


With this, the government has approved cancellation of licenses of five coal blocks, out of a total seven recommended by the IMG so far.


"I have approved the IMG's recommendations given on Friday and will take a call on others," Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal told PTI ahead of the meeting of the panel, scheduled this afternoon.


The IMG, on Friday had recommended de-allocation of the Gourangdih ABC mine, given jointly to JSW Steel and Himachal EMTA, in 2009.


The block has 61.54 million tonnes (MT) of extractable reserves and the coal from the mine was meant to be used for a power project.


The block finds mention in the CAG report as well. The government auditor had said the allottees of the block, located in West Bengal, might have accrued undue benefit to the tune of Rs1,818 crore.


Earlier, on 13th September, the government had decided to de-allocate four blocks - Bramhadih Block in Jharkhand allocated to Castron Mining Ltd in 1996, Chinora and Warora (southern part) blocks in Maharashtra given to Fieldmining and Ispat Ltd in 2003, Lalgarh (North) block in Jharkhand allotted to DOMCO Smokeless Fuels Pvt Ltd in 2005.


It had also accepted the IMG recommendations to deduct Bank Guarantee (BG) in case of Marki Mangli-II, III and IV Blocks in Maharashtra allocated to private player Shri Virangana Steels besides asking Monnet Ispat & Energy to submit BG for Utkal B2 Block in Odisha allocated it.


CAG had recently estimated that the financial impact of the benefit to the private allottees will be about Rs1.86 lakh crore.


Meanwhile, the panel is meeting again later in the day to decide the fate of about six more coal mines allocated to private firms that were issued notices for delaying production.


The panel on Saturday had recommended de-allocation of mines including one to SKS Ispat and Power in which Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahai's brother allegedly had a link and another jointly alloted to Jindal Steel Works (JSW). However, the Coal Ministry is yet to take a call on these.


The panel has so far scrutinised the replies furnished by 18 coal block allottees out of 29, in its three meetings last week.


It earlier heard the coal block allottees, who were invited to make presentations from 6-8 September, and also obtained updated status paper from Coal Controller/Ministry of Coal.


Personal Finance Exclusive
Loan rates could moderate further following CRR cut

Soon after the Reserve Bank cut CRR rates by 25 bps to 4.5% in it’s the monetary policy, several bankers hinted that they may reduce lending rates in the coming days

Borrowers could see better days ahead as banks are expected to cut lending rates following the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)'s decision to unlock Rs17,000 crore by slashing cash reserve ratio (CRR) by 0.25%, reports PTI.


Soon after the Reserve Bank unveiled its mid-quarter review of the monetary policy, several bankers hinted that they may reduce lending rates in the coming days.


Commenting on RBI's action, Pratip Chaudhuri, chairman of State Bank of India (SBI) said the bank will review its rates in the light of policy decision. The asset liability committee (ALCO) of bank is expected to meet soon to take a view on rate revision.


"It is a very positive move. I think the RBI has given a clear signal that they (banks) are willing to respond and that they (banks) have taken note of the signs of deceleration in economy," Chaudhuri said.


RBI today announced cut in CRR, the percentage of deposits banks keep with central bank, to 4.5%.


However, repo rate, at which the central bank lends to the banks, would remain unchanged at 8%. The reverse repo, at which it absorbs excess liquidity through borrowings from banks, remains at 7%.


Terming the policy action strongly positive for the markets, MD Mallya, Chairman and Managing Director of Bank of Baroda said as much as Rs720 crore of additional fund would come to the bank.


The liquidity infusion would ensure adequate flow of credit to productive sectors of the economy, Mallya said, adding that the bank's ALCO would meet soon to take stock of the situation.


Oriental Bank of Commerce (OBC) Chairman and Managing Director SL Bansal also said that the bank would take a view on the rate revision in its ALCO meeting soon.


"I am of the opinion that there will be fall in the interest rate," Bansal said, adding that the lending rate would moderate further.


OBC has already cut its base rate or the minimum lending rate by 0.1% to 10.4% last month.


According to MV Tanksale, Chairman and Managing Director of Central Bank of India, the CRR cut will infuse Rs515 crore into the bank. He said, however, that he did not anticipate cut in the base rate. There could be moderation in certain segments, he added.


Credit growth is expected to pick up during the upcoming festival season, Tanksale said.


On the similar lines, Dena Bank Chairperson Nupur Mitra said the bank will decide about base rate cut in the committee's meeting. RBI's action will definitely help in the credit growth, she added.


Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) Executive Director AK Bansal said, "We will take a call in ALCO soon taking into consideration liquidity condition and credit off-take."


If credit picks up further from here on, he said, there is a possibility of moderation in the interest rate.


It was not a surprise that RBI maintained status-quo on policy rates and provided a token 0.25% cut in CRR, said Moses Harding, IndusInd Bank head (ALCO and economic & market research).


It was a balancing act with one eye on inflation and the other on the government's action on pushing reforms, and fiscal consolidation, he said.


"The shorter end of the rate curve will benefit the most while medium to longer is expected to stay steady," Harding said.


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