Press Note on 2G spectrum changed at last minute: Vahanvati

Posted By: Pti
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New Delhi, Feb 5: The controversial press note regarding 2G licences was changed at the last minute by then Telecom Minister A Raja in 2008 with a different pen, former Solicitor General G E Vahanvati told the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on Tuesday, contending that his trust had been betrayed in the process.

Mr Vahanvati, who was Solicitor General in 2008 and is now Attorney General (AG), denied there had been discussions with him as claimed by Raja about his going ahead with "preemptive and proactive" decisions in a letter.

Mr Vahanvati also told the JPC on 2G scam that the changes in the first-come, first-served policy were never discussed with him and he had nothing to do with the issue of 2G spectrum licences.

G E Vahanvati

Mr Vahanvati appeared before the JPC as he was the Solicitor General when 122 second generation spectrum licenses were issued and he had appeared for certain cases on behalf of DoT in various courts including telecom tribunal TDSAT.

In reply to a query by members, Mr Vahanvati said he had concurred with the draft press note on the issuance of licences shown to him by the then Telecom Secretary Siddharth Behura on January 7, 2008 carrying four paragraphs.

He said he was not aware of the amendments to the press release at a later stage. "In fact, noting by the minister (the then Telecom minister A Raja) 'press release approved as amended' was added subsequently, that too with a different pen," JPC chief P C Chacko quoting Vahanvati said after the meeting.

The release was subsequently issued on January 10.

According to Mr Vahanvati, a paragraph dealing with ties between the two companies, which achieve certain criteria in getting licence, was later deleted.

The press note said that in case of a tie, the company, which had applied first, would be preferred.

"That amendment in that press release which had led to a qualitative change in the selection process was not known to the Attorney General," Mr Chacko said.

The Attorney General said Mr Behura brought the file related to the press note personally to him and sought his opinion regarding the factual status about any stay in the court on the issue of letter of intent and he offered his opinion on the "premises of trust."

However, Mr Vahanvati conceded that he could not disagree that his trust was belied," Mr Chacko said.

When enquired about observations made by him on a Telecom Ministry file on January 7, 2008, just days ahead of the issuance of 2G licences, Mr Vahanvati told the panel that the DoT had not referred to him the file seeking his opinion on government policy.

He said the only reference made to him was regarding factual verification relating to any stay order on issuance of letter of intent in TDSAT or any other court.

The AG said his noting on the related file was to only confirm facts and it cannot be termed as a 'legal opinion'.

He also told the committee that he was unaware of the opinion given by then Law Minister H R Bhardwaj on October 26, 2007 that the issue of 2G licences be referred to an Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM).

He said he was also not aware of the details of the files placed before Mr Bhardwaj.

On being asked about the established procedure for referring matters seeking legal opinion of the Solicitor General by various ministries and departments, Mr Vahanvati said that generally such opinions are routed through the Law Ministry.

But he pointed out that exceptions take place when a law officer represents a department or ministry in a court case as there are regular interactions and the law officer gives his opinion relating to on-going cases.

The opposition members in JPC had been demanding Mr Vahanvati's appearance for a long time.


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