The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday filed charge sheets against Bharti Cellular (now Bharti Airtel Ltd), Hutchinson Max and Sterling Cellular (now Vodafone Essar), Vodafone India and former telecom secretary Shyamal Ghosh, for alleged irregularities in grant of spectrum beyond stipulated limit during the tenure of former telecom minister Late Pramod Mahajan, in 2002.
The three companies and Ghosh have been charged under section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code and various provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act relating to misconduct by a public servant in accepting illegal gratification by abusing his official position.
Special CBI judge OP Saini took the 57-page charge sheet and said he will take it up for consideration on January 14.
Interestingly, the charge sheet names 73 witnesses, including JR Gupta, former deputy director general (VAS), DoT and former director, Bharat Sanchar Nigam, who had been named in the FIR as one of the accused.
The CBI has alleged that DoT had increased the base spectrum for telecom companies from 4.4 MHz to 6.2 MHz during Mahajan’s tenure and also allocated extra spectrum on subscriber-based criteria. It alleged that additional spectrum was allotted to these companies in a hurried manner, by charging additional 1% of annual gross revenue instead of 2%.
This led to a potential loss of Rs846 crore for the exchequer, CBI said. Shares in Bharti Airtel extended losses on the news and closed the day down more than 3%. Vodafone is not listed in India.
Monumental loss of Rs846 crore
- The allocation of additional spectrum during the NDA regime resulted in a loss of Rs846 crore to the exchequer, the CBI said.
- It said DoT increased base spectrum for telecom companies from 4.4 MHz to 6.2 MHz