The Supreme Court Thursday asked the government to come clear on whether the auction of spectrum was carried out with maximisation of revenue as its objective or in the larger public interest.
A bench led by Justice Dipak Misra sought to know from the government the principle followed by them in conducting the auction, which had helped the exchequer earn Rs 10,791 crore before the end of the last financial year from the telecom companies. .
The government should also inform if all the available spectrum were auctioned and if not, the reason for not doing so, said the court. It added that the road map for auction of unused spectrum, if any, should also be adduced by the government by the next date of hearing.
It observed that number of questions remained unanswered in the previous affidavit of the government, and hence an additional affidavit ought to be filed furnishing various details of the auction, including whether the recommendations by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) were given any weight age while formulating the clauses of the auction.
The bench further asked the government if any classification was made between existing and new bidders for the auctions and if so, under what authority of law this could be said as appropriate.
While it sought time to file the fresh affidavit, the government argued that the telecom companies had taken a “prudent business decisions to invest in telecom space” and that they had not taken the plunge “for charity.”
Meanwhile, the telecom companies contended that the government must give clarity on auctions procedure and they should also be asked to set a time-line for future auctions. The court will hear the case next on May 7.
The petitions in the matter have been filed by major telecom players, including Bharti Hexacom Ltd and Reliance Telecom Ltd, which have challenged the legality of the design of the Notice Inviting Tender (NIT) for the spectrum and the conditions therein.