The Delhi High Court today asked the CBI why it has not completed in one year a preliminary probe into a matter in which BSNL officials allegedly caused a loss of about Rs 1,000 crore to the exchequer by releasing unauthorized payment to the subsidiary of a Chinese firm by fabricating documents. Also Read - Jio maintains lead in 4G download speed, Vi in upload in May: TRAIAlso Read - BSNL launches a new cheap Rs 499 broadband plan to take on Airtel Xtreme, JioFiber
The high court, however, allowed the CBI’s plea seeking time to complete the probe and listed the matter for further hearing on October 25. “One year has passed. When are you going to complete the preliminary inquiry (PE)? What have you done? This is purely record and documentation,” a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said. The court was hearing a petition by NGO Telecom Watchdog, being argued by advocate Prashant Bhushan who alleged that officials of Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) had connived with M/s ZTE Telecom India Pvt Ltd, a Chinese contractor, and forged official records of BSNL so that “undue payments” of about Rs 1,000 crore could be released to the firm.
Bhushan cited a Supreme Court judgment and said CBI has registered a PE and have kept it pending for a year. He said they have to register a FIR and conduct the investigation. CBI standing counsel Sanjeev Bhandari submitted that in such cases, PE is required to be registered and the agency will place the outcome of the inquiry before the court on the next date. ALSO READ: BSNL to set up 1 lakh Wi-Fi hotspots by March 2019
The NGO’s counsel had earlier said they had filed a complaint on the issue on March 11 last year before CBI, which has not taken any action. The petitioner has sought a direction to CBI to probe the complaint in a time-bound manner. The petition claimed that in 2011, BSNL had invited tender for north, south and east zones for 14.37 million GSM mobile telephone lines on a turnkey basis and following a transparent competitive bidding process, M/s ZTE emerged as the successful bidder for all three zones at a cost of Rs 4,204.85 crore.
The plea alleged that in its tender, BSNL had prescribed eight milestones for releasing payments, according to which only 50 per cent payment was payable up to the delivery stage and the balance to be released in stages on installation and commissioning. “During the implementation of the project, for unknown reasons, BSNL kept releasing purchase orders without caring for demand in the field. As a result, a huge quantum of the ordered material started piling-up at M/s ZTE’s stores for which BSNL had already paid 50 per cent of the equipment cost including customs duty as per the tender clauses,” it alleged. ALSO READ: BSNL to soon roll out 4G services with VoLTE support: Report
The plea claimed that certain officials of BSNL and ZTE entered into a conspiracy to release undue payment of 95.10 percent “illegitimately for all such uninstalled equipment”. “It is apparent that the respondent (CBI) is not taking any action on the complaint filed by the petitioner for some unknown reasons even in such a serious matter where hundreds of crores of rupees have been released illegitimately in criminal conspiracy between officials of BSNL and a Chinese contractor by forging documents in a contract worth Rs 4,204.85 crore,” the petitioner alleged.