An informal group of ministers,that include Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal,on Friday met for the second time in as many weeks to discuss fallout of the Supreme Court order quashing 121 telecom licences.
The meeting,also attended by Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Telecom Secretary R Chandrashekhar,was however inconclusive due to the absence of Law Minister Salman Khurshid and Attorney General G E Vahanvati,sources said.
The group met to discuss the future course of action including legal options available for the government,following the apex court’s February 2 decision of cancelling 121 licences issued to mobile phone companies in 2008.
The government has already sought the Attorney General’s opinion on filing a review petition and the ministers were supposed to deliberate on the issue at today’s meeting.
Sibal refused to comment on the deliberations.
If anything happens,we will let you know, Chandrashekhar said.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had on February 11 discussed the fallouts of the Supreme Court ruling with the senior ministers.
Sibal had last week stated that the government was studying the implications of the judgement as it had impact on other sectors as well.
I have been saying this repeatedly that the impact of the judgement is far-reaching. It has implications not only on the (telecom) sector but on other sectors as well, Sibal said.
The apex court,cancelling licences allocated by the then telecom minister A Raja,had stated that auction was the best way for allocation of scarce natural resources. The court had also defined natural resources as both renewable and non-renewable.
Sibal had said that after the government studies the implications of the judgement,it would take a view on the way how it should proceed.
Today’s meeting also assumes significance as two foreign companies — Bahrain Telecom and Abu Dhabi-based Etisalat — have announced their exit from India.
Another operator Loop has written to the Prime Minister,asking the government to return the licence fee paid by the company along with interest.
This is expected to put pressure on the government as the operators are waiting for clarity on rules to safeguard the multi-crore investments made by these players.
Another operator Telenor has,however,re-iterated its commitment to continue operations in the country,although as part of a new venture.