New Delhi: Bharti Airtel Ltd on Tuesday said it views Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) chargesheet against it over 2G spectrum irregularities as "an attempt to tarnish its high reputation" and that it will fight the chargesheet against the company and its chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal. A court on Tuesday summoned former Telecom Secretary Shyamal Ghosh, Ravi Ruia, one of the founders of diversified conglomerate Essar Group and ex-head of Vodafone Group Plc's Indian unit Asim Ghosh, along with Mittal, over the same case.
Essar Group said court order summoning Ravi Ruia is shocking and surprising. The police had filed charges in December against Bharti Airtel and Vodafone's India unit as part of a probe into corruption allegations in airwave allocations a decade ago. In 2002, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone's India unit were charged over alleged irregularities in allotting mobile spectrum. The charge sheet did not name any individual executives.
Bharti Airtel said the spectrum allocation was made to the company in December 2003 under the charge of then Minister of Communications in the NDA, Arun Shourie, who has already been given a clean chit. It added the government has, on several occasions, stated on the floor of Parliament that additional spectrum granted to all operators and the related spectrum usage charges are as per the policy. The DoT has also filed affidavits before the courts confirming the same, the company said in a statement.
Mittal, Ghosh and Ruia were summoned because "they represent the directing mind and will of each company", Judge OP Saini had said in his order. The men will stand in court on April 11. "The acts of the companies are to be attributed and imputed to them. Consequently, I find enough material on record to proceed against them," Saini had added.
Bharti and Vodafone India have previously denied any wrongdoing. Essar Group is the parent company of Essar Energy Plc and Essar Steel India Ltd.
Shares in Bharti fell as much as 7.6 per cent after the judge read out the summons, before cutting some losses to close 4.6 per cent lower. Vodafone started its business in India in 2007 by acquiring a majority stake in Hutchison Whampoa Ltd's mobile operations, a unit that was set up in partnership with Essar Group. Essar Group maintained a stake in Vodafone India until 2011.
The investigation follows a separate scandal over bandwith allocations in 2008 in which the CAG said the ruling Congress-Party led government may have lost up to $32.5 billion due to below-market price sales of radio spectrum. The CBI have charged 19 people and three companies in that case, and they are on trial.
The Supreme Court had ordered police to investigate any possible irregularities in the allocation of mobile airwaves from 2001 to 2007. Police have estimated a potential loss of $156 million in government revenue due to the alleged irregularities in 2002.
(With Additional Inputs From Reuters)