Business Today 14th January 2018 - Page 16

P . 18
TROUBLE FOR AIRTEL PAYMENTS BANK
P . 20
EXISTENTIAL CRISIS FOR WTO
P . 22
A NEW CHAPTER IN EV STORY
TELECOM

The Great 2G Puzzle

WHY THE SCAM WILL CONTINUE TO MAKE HEADLINES
By PROSENJIT DATTA & MANU KAUSHIK
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 .
16 I BUSINESS TODAY I January 14 I 2018
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