Legal experts pointed out that the two sections under which Raja, Behura and Chandelia have been booked indicated the possibility of further arrests, including those from the private sector and their lobbyists. The CBI has booked the trio under the sections dealing with ‘criminal conspiracy’ and ‘criminal misconduct by a public servant’ of the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act.
“What happens next depends on the further evidence that CBI is able to muster,” pointed out Anil B Diwan, a renowned corporate lawyer and an expert in anti-corruption law. “If they can prove some illicit consideration and can identify the companies that provided them, they can proceed against the companies,” he said, adding that it is a “big IF.”
Prashant Bhushan, himself an eminent lawyer, said further arrests are the natural direction for the investigation to take and that he hopes to see them. Both parties have urged the Apex Court to annul the allocation of licenses made by Raja to more than 105 companies in January and February of 2008. Among the companies that received licenses during the period are Aircel, Loop, Etisalat, MTS, Reliance Communications, Tata Teleservices, Videocon and Uninor.
The government has already issued notices to around 119 licensees across the country for either misrepresenting their company’s condition at the time of applying for the licenses or for failing to meet the required roll-out and investment guidelines attached to the licenses that were issued. The companies are in the process of filing their replies.
However, a noted telecom industry lawyer, engaged in defending many telecom operators against the government and the regulator, pointed out that any move to scrap licenses will be met with litigious action by the operators themselves. “It is possible to seek a stay from the Court by pointing out that a lot of investments have already been made. It is also possible to appeal on the basis of the interests of the subscribers, especially in those cases where considerable roll-out has already taken place,” he said, preferring to remain anonymous considering his clients’ sensibilities.
Aircel, Videocon, Uninor, MTS, Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices have rolled out their services in all or many of their license areas and count thousands or lakhs of subscribers in each of them. Others like Loop and Etisalat-DB are yet to start large-scale commercial operations in majority of their license areas.