Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Security angle was ignored in 2G allocation: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Wednesday voiced concern over national security aspects being overlooked during the tenure of A. Raja while allowing foreign companies to operate in the telecom sector despite adverse reports against them.

“In two cases security angles are being probed. (The) Ministry of Home Affairs’ objection against the companies are very serious. They can become (a) threat to (the) internal and external security of the nation. You get huge FDI for compromising national security,” a bench of justices G.S. Singhvi and A.G. Ganguly asked.

The court was referring to service providers Etisalat DB Telecom and STel against whom the Home Ministry had expressed reservations.

“There is a security angle to it and if it turns out to be true then it means that security aspect has been compromised,” the bench said.

“We are not experts in these matters. But if these things are not taken care of then they can even know Army operations of the country,” the bench said.

The court was hearing a petition filed jointly by various civil societies, including Centre for Public Interest Litigation, Telecom Watchdog and Common Cause, and by Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy seeking the court’s direction to cancel all the licences issued to service provider during Mr. Raja’s tenure.

Several eminent persons like former Chief Election Commissioners J.M. Lyngdoh, T.S. Krishnamurthy and N. Gopalaswami and former Central Vigilance Commissioner P. Shankar are also petitioners in the case.

Earlier on March 3, the bench had ordered the CBI to probe the restoration of 2G spectrum licence to Chennai-based telecom operator STel after its cancellation earlier on grounds of threat to national security.

It had also asked the agency to investigate UAE-based Etisalat as the Home Ministry had expressed reservations earlier to the Department of Telecommunication and the Union Finance Ministry regarding the foreign direct investment made by it in the telecom sector.

The Finance ministry had written to Etisalat that its proposal for enhancing FDI in India has been rejected by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board in view of the Home Ministry’s reservations on it.

The grant of 2G spectrum allocation licence to Swan (now Etisalat DB) was questioned by Mr. Swamy on the ground of threat to national security and he had informed the court that the Home Ministry had raised the objection to investment by it.

The court has also issued notices to 11 telecom companies — Etisalat, Uninor, Loop Telecom, Videocon, STel, Allianz Infra, Idea Cellular, Tata Tele Services, Sistema Shyam Teleservices, Dishnet wireless and Vodafone-Essar seeking their response on why there licences be not cancelled.

Shahid Usman Balwa, promoter of Swan, has already been arrested in connection with the 2G scam and several other corporate honchos have been quizzed by the CBI.

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