India has appointed a retired Supreme Court judge to examine the allocation of mobile licenses and spectrum from 2001, following charges that irregularities in allocation preceded the tenure of A. Raja as minister of communications and IT.
The country's Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) presented a report last month in India's Parliament that alleged irregular allocations of 2G licenses and spectrum in 2008 to some Indian operators may have cost the country about US$39 billion.
Raja, who is accused of favouring some companies in the award of licenses, resigned before the report was presented after leaks of it were published in some newspapers in India.
Raja said he was following procedures laid down by his predecessors, which led India's Supreme Court to suggest to the investigative agency, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), that it also investigate the allocation of licenses from 2001.
The probe headed by the retired judge will look into allocations from 2001 to 2009 and is expected to complete the work in a month, India's current communications and IT minister, Kapil Sibal, said in Delhi on Thursday, according to media reports.
The scrutiny of allocation of licenses and spectrum from 2001 will also help the current government deflect opposition criticism of corruption in the communications ministry. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and some other parties ran a coalition government from 1999 to 2004 when some decisions regarding spectrum and licenses allocation were taken.
BJP and other opposition parties have been stalling proceedings in Parliament since last month. The opposition wants a joint parliamentary committee to investigate the 2G scam.
The CBI raided houses of Raja and some other former telecom officials for evidence on Wednesday, a year after they started investigations into irregular allotments of 2G licenses. The CBI had not named Raja, who was still in power, when it started the investigations in October last year. The Supreme Court has criticized the CBI for the delay in its investigations.