Patil report nails the 2G babus

The one-month investigation report on the internal goings on in the Department of Telecom during the “2G scam” has implicated many of the top officials in the department during the last five years. The government, which officially received the report from the former Supreme Court judge Shivaraj Patil on Monday, however kept mum on the contents, figuring out its next move.

“We have just got it.. I haven’t had time to look at yet,” said Kapil Sibal, telecom minister, soon after the one-man-committee investigation report was handed to him under full media glare. The report, which was prepared in a record period of one month, and is seen as part of the government’s attempt to show that it is taking against the guilty in the alleged manipulated sale of telecom licenses in 2008.

Sibal, who had earlier defended some of his predecessor, scam-tainted A Raja’s actions against a scathing report by the country’s statutory auditor, said he expects to make some of the findings public “very soon.” According to sources, the report primarily tries to nail the role played by different department officials, while Raja’s own alleged misdeeds have already been described in details by the Comptroller & Auditor General of India.

“One of the terms of reference is if there is any shortcomings, lapses or deficiency in procedure, applying or following.. [by the] public officials, they must be identified, which I have done,” Justice Patil said, after handing over more than 1400 pages of the report and supporting documents.

While the naming of Raja and his man friday RK Chandolia were along expected lines, the report is also understood to have examined the roles of powerful former bureaucrats in Sanchar Bhawan, including former wireless advisor PK Garg and a former joint secretary MS Sahu and examined the role of former telecom secretary Siddharth Behuria. As head of the body that was in day-to-day charge of the actual spectrum allotment, PK Garg had been one of the most powerful officials in the department.

Both Garg and Sahu rose into prominence under the tenure of Dayanidhi Maran and continued, for some time, to work under A Raja. A former member of telecom commission and two deputy director general (DDGs) are also known to have been named in the report.

From the period 2001-2009, spectrum and licenses were alloted by DoT officials — ostensibly under a “first come, first served” method — on the basis of an internal ledger which recorded the date that each operator had requested for a extra license or spectrum.

However, the ledger itself was a guarded like a top secret, resulting in allegations that the priority list was being manipulated by corrupt officials after taking bribes from unscrupulous operators. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) too had raised alarm at the secretive nature of the spectrum allocation, pointing out that such unnecessary secrecy created unnecessary uncertainty in the telecom sector.

Besides highlighting bureaucratic complicity in the “2G Scam,” Justice Patil’s report is also known to have criticised the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government for having first put in place the ‘first come, first served’ policy instead of auctioning the airwaves. It also repeated many of the findings of the CAG on the manipulation of the first-come-first-served basis by former telecom minister A Raja, as detailed in the auditor’s November report.

Political observers expect the government to use the Judge’s report both as an instrument to mollify the Supreme Court as well as possible ammunition to deflect some of the blame to the BJP.