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Supreme Court Seeks India Government Response on 2008 Phone Spectrum Sale

India’s Supreme Court today sought a response from government agencies, Telecommunications Minister Andimuthu Raja and the Central Bureau of Investigation on a public interest petition on the sale of wireless spectrum.

The Centre for Public Interest Litigation is seeking a court-appointed team to monitor an internal probe by the CBI, a federal agency, into the award of second-generation airwaves for mobile telephony in 2008, the petitioner’s lawyer Prashant Bhushan said. The group is challenging a May 2010 judgment of the Delhi High Court, which dismissed the case against Raja and the government.

“It’s a politically sensitive case,” Bhushan told a two- member bench headed by Justice G.S. Singhvi. “Court monitoring is needed to arrive at the truth.” Singhvi gave the respondents 10 days to file their replies.

Raja belongs to the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, a key ally in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s coalition government. The minister’s decision to sell licenses to phone operators in 2008 based on a price determined in 2001 may have caused a loss of 267 billion rupees ($6 billion) to the Indian government, the Economic Times newspaper reported on April 7, citing an unreleased document from the Comptroller & Auditor General of India. The DMK is a regional party from the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

Vinod Rai, the Comptroller & Auditor General of India, said in an interview the same day that the figures in the newspaper report were “inaccurate.”

To contact the reporter on this story: P.S. Patnaik in New Delhi at ppatnaik2@bloomberg.net

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