Judge issues summons for corruption case

20 Mar 2013

A Delhi court has summoned Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Mittal, former managing director of Hutchison Max Telecom (now Vodafone India) Asim Ghosh, Essar Group vice chairman Ravi Ruia and former Telecom Secretary Shyamal Ghosh in a case relating to alleged irregularities regarding the allocation of additional spectrum in 2002. The Economic Times writes that the summons were issued based on the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI’s) charge sheet, although the CBI had only named Shyamal Ghosh and the three telecom firms: indeed, as previously noted by CommsUpdate, a lawyer for CBI said in January that none of the executives from the companies involved would face charges.

Responding to the allegations, Essar said it was a minority partner with Hutchison when the additional spectrum was allocated and noted that the CBI charge sheet does not mention Ravi Ruia or any other member of Essar Group. Nevertheless, the special judge for the case held that Ravi Ruia was the ‘directing mind and will of the company.’ Essar challenged the judge’s order, saying: ‘Given the facts, such a conclusion is clearly incorrect and misconceived and it is not clear from a reading of the order of the Learned Judge as to on what basis the conclusion has been arrived at.’

For its part, Bharti has said that it intends to fight the charge, which it sees as an attempt to tarnish its reputation. The telco further questioned the accusation, noting that: ‘The spectrum under government policy of February 1, 2002, which the charge sheet alleges was issued to benefit Bharti Airtel and Vodafone continued until April 2010 under three separate Ministers of Telecom and six Secretaries in the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and despite being considered by several formal/informal committees of the DoT/Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).’ Bharti went on to note that the state-backed operators Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) also received additional spectrum under the same policy.