NEW DELHI: A special court here on Thursday dropped charges against former telecom secretary Shyamal Ghosh and three companies in the 2002 additional spectrum allocation case, observing that a “fabricated” charge sheet was drafted to create an impression that the demand for additional spectrum began only when BJP’s Pramod Mahajan became minister.
Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Special Judge O.P. Saini discharged Ghosh and three telecom firms – Bharti Cellular Ltd, Hutchison Max Telecom Pvt Ltd (now Vodafone India Ltd) and Sterling Cellular Ltd (now Vodafone Mobile Service Ltd).
“I find that there is no incriminating material on record against the accused and the accused deserve to be discharged,” he said in a 235-page order.
The case relates to the department of telecommunications allocating additional spectrum in a decision taken on January 31, 2002, when the National Democratic Alliance was in power, allegedly resulting in a loss of Rs. 846 crore to the exchequer.
“The charge sheet has been drafted in such a manner as to create an impression that the demand for additional spectrum began only on the joining of Pramod Mahajan as minister,” the judge said.
Bharatiya Janata Party leader Mahajan, who died in 2006, was communications minister in 2002.
The court, observing that the charge sheet filed by the CBI on December 21, 2012 was full of “distorted and fabricated” facts, said that “an attempt has been made to mislead the court”.
It also directed the CBI director to conduct inquiry against the erring officials and take action as per law as it dropped charges dealing with criminal conspiracy and various provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act against Ghosh and the three companies.
The court observed that policy matter related to additional spectrum allocation was discussed in detail in the department by the relevant authorities, and there is no obligation on a superior to always honour the views of subordinates.
Once a matter is discussed, the superior in the case – secretary and minister – were free to take decision in their discretion in the light of existing facts and circumstances, the court opined. As such, it cannot be said that the decision was taken in the haste without consultation or concurrence with member, but certainly there is no formal decision of telecom commission, the court said.
The court observed that the guidelines issued for cellular mobile telephone service (CMTS) in first week of January 2001 are broad guidelines for the issue of license for provisions for cellular mobile services.
These guidelines themselves state that these are only purpose of general information and do not constitute any legally binding commitment, it noted.
The court said that relevant documents such as Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) reports, principle of level playing field etc, have not been taken note of in the charge sheet and even do not find mention in the statements of witnesses.
The judge noted that many relevant documents have either not been produced before the court or were kept away from the attention of the courts by initially dubbing them as unrelied upon and an attempt was made to mislead the court.
“The conclusion of aforesaid analysis of the events, evidence, documents and other material on record is that the charge sheet is a distorted and fabricated document, based on deliberately redacted and garbled facts,” the court said.
“It has been drafted as to create an impression of a grave crime, where there is none,” it said, adding that the charge sheet has been filed for extraneous reasons.