April 24, 2012 3:16:17 pm
The Supreme Court today refused to grant 400 days to the government to complete fresh auction of 2G spectrum licences but extended the deadline for it from June 2 to August 31,2012.
The court had on February 2 this year ordered 122 permits granted to eight operators in a scandal-tainted 2008 sale during the A Raja regime be revoked in early June and asked the government to redistribute radio airwaves through an open bidding process.
A bench of Justices G S Singvhi and K S Radhakrishnan also said today that existing licences can operate till September 7,2012.
The Centre argued through Attorney General G E Vahanvati that the government needed 400 days to conduct fresh auctions and that the time given by the apex court was too short.
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Vahanvati said regulatory body Trai had only yesterday come out with its recommendations on 2G spectrum prices. ”Trai’s recommendations will have an impact on the auction process,” he told the court.
The bench said: “In our view,it will be just and proper to partially accept the averments made in the application (by the Centre). Accordingly,the time specified for conducting the auction and grant of licences is extended upto August 31,2012.”
The bench also said its February 2 order cancelling 122 licences,allocated during the tenure of A Raja,would remain operational.
A very critical Bench told the solicitor that the government could certainly take more time but this entire exercise could have been avoided if an effort was made by ”your officers” earlier.
On Vahanvati’s submissions,the court remarked,”You ask for 400 days. That is your prayer. How much time did you take to complete the process in 2008?”
“The entire exercise could have been avoided if little more effort would have been made,” the bench said.
“We are still not in a position to believe that your officers were so naive that they don’t understand the difference,” the bench said,referring to the calculation made by the Department of Telecom (DoT) in grant of the spectrum for 4.4 MHz and 6.2 MHz.
“We are not going to accept the prayer for 400 days,” the bench said,adding,”The government was alive and aware that something wrong has gone and petition was filed in 2010.”
The apex court also warned private telcos against filing petitions questioning its February 2 verdict. The bench said it would impose exemplary costs if they continued to do so. It’s a wastage of precious public time and money,the court held.
The bench was hearing the Centre’s application,seeking clarification of its direction in the February 2,2012 judgement which had fixed June 2 as the deadline,when the 122 2G spectrum licenses,issued in 2008,would stand quashed.
Before passing the order,the bench said it was extending the time because technically it was not possible to analyse the auction by June 1.
The Centre had on March 1 moved the apex court stating it would impact over 69 million mobile users as the auction process for radiowaves will take at least 400 days.
Seeking clarification on the apex court’s February 2 verdict,the Telecom Ministry also sought more time for cancelling existing licenses.
“As the licenses/spectrum can be issued only in and around March 2013 and the licenses (would) stand quashed with effect from June 2,2012,there will be an inevitable disruption in services for the subscribers of those licence holders whose licenses (would) stand quashed by virtue of the judgement of this court.
“It is respectfully stated that the total number of subscribers indirectly affected by the judgement of this court is over 69 million,representing almost 7.5 per cent of the total mobile subscribers in India,” the government had stated in its application.
The Centre had informed the court that the auction process has commenced but it would take around 400 days for it to be completed.
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