Business Today

The Great 2G Puzzle

Why the scam will continue to make headlines
Prosenjit Datta & Manu Kaushik   New Delhi     Print Edition: January 14, 2018
The Great 2G Puzzle
Illustration by Ajay Thakuri

The CBI court's ruling on 2G licences has people debating the issue hotly. Especially because it looks as if CBI judge Om Prakash Saini's verdict contradicts the Supreme Court (SC) findings on the 2G case where it cancelled 122 licences and held that gross irregularities were committed in issuing them.

The truth is that the two cases focussed on different things. There is enough evidence to show that regulations were flouted by the then telecom minister, A. Raja. Though Raja followed the first-come, first-served policy that had been formulated by the NDA government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and then continued by the UPA government, he tweaked the cut-off date, and that gave some bidders who seemed to have an inside track on the decision an advantage over others. That was why the SC cancelled the licences.

On the other hand, the CBI court was hearing a criminal case on whether bribes were paid to either Raja or the DMK, and whether money laundering took place. This is what Saini says the prosecution failed to prove; he has castigated the way they put up the case.

The cancellation of the licences resulted in collateral damage to foreign investors - Etisalat and Telenor - who had put their trust in their Indian partners and the licences they got. The ED and the CBI say they will appeal the verdict in the High Court. It will probably drag on and may even end up in the SC.

Meanwhile, 2G technology is rolling into oblivion. It is doubtful if any of the companies that won the 122 licences would have been able to survive the battle that is taking place now after Jio's entry, which unleashed a very different kind of technology and price war. But despite its irrelevance, the 2G scam will continue to make headlines.

 

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