SC criticises Sibal for undermining CAG report on 2G scam

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today pulled up telecom minister Kapil Sibal for making statements undermining the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on the second generation (2G) scam and asked him to behave with "some sense of responsibility," reports PTI

"It is unfortunate. The minister should behave with some sense of responsibility," the bench of justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly said.

It directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to go ahead with the probe into the scam without getting influenced by anybody's statement.

The CAG has estimated a loss of Rs1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer in allocation of 2G spectrum during the tenure of former telecom minister A Raja.

"In our opinion, the CBI, which is conducting investigation into the 2G scam, is expected to carry out the probe without being influenced by the statement made by anybody, anywhere, including the press," the bench said.

Mr Sibal had termed as "utterly erroneous and without any basis" the estimated loss arrived at by the CAG on account of allocation of 2G spectrum to telecom operators.

The bench also issued notices to 11 private telecom companies, which were granted licences despite being alleged ineligible operators or had failed to launch services within stipulated time-frame.

The private telecom companies, which were issued notices included Etisalat, Uninor, Loop Telecom, Videocon, S-Tel, Allianz Infra, Idea Cellular, Tata Teleservices, Sistema Shyam Teleservices, Dishnet Wireless and Vodafone-Essar.

While issuing notices to various telecom firms, the bench indicated that the companies could not get away merely by paying penalties and asked Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy to file an application seeking to restrain the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) from accepting penalties.

The bench also sought the reply of sectoral regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for allegedly not taking action against the telecom firms and defaulting in meeting their roll out obligations. It posted the matter for further hearing on 1st February.

The bench was hearing Mr Swamy's plea seeking the apex court's direction to the CBI to ensure that nothing, including Mr Sibal's public criticism of the CAG report, affected its investigation.

He had moved the court last week apprehending that the telecom minister's recent criticism of CAG report on 2G spectrum allocation may influence the ongoing CBI probe.

"It is apprehended that intemperate and uncalled for public attack on the CAG methodology (by the telecom minister) before the national press may prejudice the CBI investigations and cause an obstruction to justice," Mr Swamy had said in his application.

"There is an urgency to ensure that the said CBI inquiry is carried out without interference for which purpose the monitoring was directed by this court. Nothing must permit the slightest derogation from that objective," he had said.

Referring to Mr Sibal's remarks, Mr Swamy had said, "The telecom minister has criticised the approach of the CAG in estimating the loss to the nation by illegal awarding of licences and the allocation of 2G spectrum in a manner tantamount to ridiculing the CAG.
"He has even gone to the extent of issuing a veiled warning of a breach of secrecy on the part of the CAG, thereby intending to overawe an institution, constitutionally empowered to oversee the finances of the government," he had said.

"This court has directed monitoring of the CBI probe into the criminal culpabilities in the 2G spectrum scam and has specifically directed CBI to take the CAG report as the basis for it," Mr Swamy had said, recalling the court's 16th December order.

He had also objected to Mr Sibal's statement intending that the ministry will unveil a new telecom policy within 100 days, besides DoT's step of imposing a penalty of Rs73 crore on various telecom companies for not meeting the roll-out obligations stipulated in licences.

In his petition, Mr Swamy apprehended that such steps by the ministry and the minister would compound and complicate the issue and "by the payment of such compounding fees etc, rights to regularisation may be claimed by the defaulting licensees.

"And this may lead to further losses to the public exchequer," Mr Swamy had said.

He had also pleaded to the court to make the 11 telecom companies, which were awarded licences by telecom ministry in 2008, party to enable them to have their say in adjudication of his earlier petition for cancellation of their licences.

Mr Swamy had also sought the court's direction to make TRAI a party, saying that the sectoral regulator's version would also be needed in deciding the issue of cancellation of licences.

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JSW Energy to close deal for Canadian coal miner by end-February

Higher coal prices impact power producer’s bottom line; looks to acquire more coal assets to meet its requirements

JSW Energy expects to close the deal to acquire the entire stake in Canadian coal miner CIC Energy by the end of next month, according to a senior official at JSW Energy.

"We hope to seal the CIC Energy deal by 28th February. CIC Energy will hold a special meeting of their shareholders tomorrow (21st January) to get approvals," LK Gupta, joint managing director and chief executive officer of JSW Energy, said last evening.
 
Under the deal, JSW Energy will get coal mine assets, which have reserves of about 2.6 billion tonnes of thermal coal that is used primarily by power plants, in Botswana, Africa.

"The acquisition will help JSW Energy to meet our medium- and long-term raw material requirements for existing projects," N K Jain, vice-chairman of JSW Energy, said on the sidelines of a news conference to announce the company's earnings.

In November, JSW Energy agreed to buy CIC Energy for about $414.5 million after two months of exclusive talks. Earlier in April, it acquired a majority stake in South African Coal Mining Holding Ltd.

The company is looking to acquire coal mining assets to meet its requirements for thermal coal for its power projects. "We are open to all options to buying coal assets or form joint ventures to meet our raw material requirements," Mr Jain said.

JSW Energy also intends to increase its coal mining capacities at its mines in Indonesia and South Africa to ensure coal supply and reduce costs. "We want to buy coal mines in Indonesia and South Africa," said Pramod Menon, chief finance officer JSW. The company is planning to invest around Rs50 million for the expansion.
 
Rising prices of imported coal has impacted the company's margins in the third quarter ended 31st December 2010. JSW Energy reported a 25% drop in third-quarter net profit due to rising fuel costs. Net profit for the October-December period slipped to Rs153 crore from Rs205 crore in the corresponding quarter a year ago, while sales jumped 52% to Rs1,061 crore from Rs697 crore.
 
Fuel costs increased to Rs638 crore from Rs277 crore due to higher coal prices. "Due to floods in Australia (a major coal supplier) coal prices have shot up and the impact may continue in the fourth quarter too," Mr Jain said. "We could see stability in coal prices in the first quarter of the next financial year."

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Parle Hippo: Maa to the rescue!

Mother’s love is wasted on the wrong product. ‘Hippo’ was better off solving the world’s hunger problem

There's an old saying in the advertising world: When all else fails, use emotion. And when that seems a trifle out of sync proposition in the product category, rush to good ol' mother's love. Can't go wrong in India with maa ka pyaar.

Well, 'Hippo', for its new 'Round-Round' munchies variant, has tried to do exactly that. Earlier, the Parle Agro snack brand had attempted to solve the world's hunger problem. That bleeding heart strategy appears to have done little magic… more people are dying of starvation on Earth than ever before. So I suppose that prompted the advertiser to drop the idea of saving the world, and instead switch to selling the munchie on the promise of love and care.

Now the 'animal' (we only get to see shadows for some reason) substitutes mummy's affection. Especially for 'children' far removed from their dear mommas. Army jawans, a boy in a hospital, a firangi tourist, etc. And of course, moms from all parts of India make an appearance to force in the pan India positioning. The Hippo, like a Mumbai dabbawalla, takes their 'preparations' and circulates them all over. And yes, there's that expected emotional jingle, which pays glowing tributes to maataji.

So will it work? Well, maa can't go wrong in this mother-obsessed nation, can she? It's always a safe trick to pull. However, for this particular product category, which is nothing but a fatty, mass-produced snack, I find the connection a bit corny. Which mother would like to send out frivolous food to her ailing son? Or to her jawan son posted at the border? If this was a deliciously produced health food, loaded with vitamins, proteins, minerals, etc, etc, the 'maa ka dulaar' concept may have worked. But for a floozy tit bit, this idea is totally incredible. In fact, the last thing a caring mom would want is to courier a time-pass munchie to her hospitalised son. Come to think of it, security guards posted at good hospitals won't even allow it to be carried into the premises!

Net net: Mother's love wasted on the wrong product. Hippo was better off solving the world's hunger problem. Especially in India where the aam aadmi isn't able to afford basic food stuff like onions, toor dal and tomatoes. "Can't afford a chappati? Go for Hippo instead!" I can hear Soniaji muttering in Italian.

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