SC tells CBI to prosecute Shyamal Ghosh, Bharti Airtel & Vodafone

Telcos

The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to heed the view of its outgoing director AP Singh with regard to prosecuting public officials and private companies in the matter of the grant of excess spectrum in 2002 during the NDA government's regime. Accordingly, the investigating agency can now file charge sheets and prosecute former telecom secretary Shyamal Ghosh, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone. In November 2011, the CBI had carried out raids at the offices of the companies concerned as also the residences of Ghosh and another government official, JR Gupta.

Although the development comes as a setback for Bharti and Vodafone, which were not beneficiaries in the grant of licences and spectrum by then telecom minister A Raja in 2008, it comes as a breather for Bharti's chairman and managing director Sunil Mittal. The officer investigating the 2G case had sought the prosecution of Mittal along with that of Ghosh but the CBI's director (prosecution) had differed on the issue, stating that neither Mittal nor the companies concerned should be charged. The CBI director had said that Ghosh and the accused companies (not Mittal) may be prosecuted, while soliciting the advice of the attorney general (AG).

On Thursday the opinion of the AG, GE Vahanvati, was also placed in a sealed cover before a bench comprising justices GS Singhvi and KS Radhakrishnan. After perusing the report, the bench directed the CBI to go by the view of its director in taking further action on the allocation of spectrum when the late Pramod Mahajan of the BJP was telecom minister.

"We are of the opinion that CBI will take action in accordance with the view expressed by CBI director against some persons and companies," the bench said. The court said the retirement of the present director will not come in the way and the agency will proceed with his view as he is the highest functionary in the CBI and he has taken a particular view.

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