Essar, Airtel regret summons in 2G case

New Delhi, March 19 (IANS) The Essar and the Bharti Group have expressed regret over summons of a Delhi court Tuesday to produce their top brass in a case relating to alleged irregularities in allotting excess telecom airwaves.

Special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Judge O.P. Saini summoned, among others, Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Mittal and Essar Group promoter Ravi Ruia in the case pertaining to award of spectrum during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime.
“The Essar Group has always displayed the highest regard for law and ethics and has always conducted its business in accordance with the laws of the land,” the group said in a statement.
“Thus, the recent order purporting to take cognizance against Ravi Ruia, in relation to allegations of excess spectrum, is both shocking and surprising,” the group said, adding they were minority partners in the company in question.
The Bharti Group expressed similar regret, saying their entity and promoters always practiced the highest standards of corporate governance, even alluding that the charges framed were an attempt to tarnish its high reputation.
“We are saddened at the summons being issued to Bharti Airtel and to Sunil Bharti Mittal as chairman and managing director of Bharti Airtel, whilst taking cognizance of the charge sheet filed by the CBI against Bharti Airtel, two Vodafone entities and an individual.”
The group further said it was disappointed with the charge sheet, as it was one of the few Indian multinationals with a reputation of good governance standards, with its chairman being a global leader associated with some best-known institutions of the world, besides being a brand ambassador for India.
The Essar Group said at the relevant time, it was a minority partner in the telecom venture and that the day-to-day management was effectively in the hands of directors and employees nominated by the Hutchison Group.
Special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Judge O.P. Saini Tuesday issued the summons for April 11 after taking cognizance of the charges against Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Sterling Cellular for the alleged irregularities.
On Dec 21 last year, the CBI had named the three telecom firms, apart from others, as accused for criminal conspiracy, as also under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, for causing a loss of about Rs.846 crore to the exchequer.
The agency told the court that additional spectrum was allotted July 17, 2002, to Bharti Cellular (now Bharti Airtel) and Sterling Cellular (now Vodafone Mobile Service) for the Delhi metro area, and Hutchison Max (now Vodafone India) for Mumbai metro area.
The late Bharatiya Janata Party leader Pramod Mahajan was the telecom minister then.
The judge said Sunil Mittal was chairman-cum-managing director of Bharti and Ruia a director in Sterling Cellular – and that they were all prima facie in control of affairs of the respective companies.
“As such they represent the directing mind and will of each company and their state of mind is the state of mind of the companies. “They are/were the ‘alter-ego’ of their respective companies,” judge Saini said.
“In this fact/situation, the acts of the companies are to be attributed and imputed to them. Consequently, I find enough material on record to proceed against them.”