The Supreme Court Monday issued notice to the union government and
11 firms on a plea seeking cancellation of airwaves and licenses
issued for second generation (2G) spectrum during former
communications minister A. Raja's tenure.
An apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice A.K.
Ganguly issued the notice to the companies that allegedly did not
fulfil their roll-out obligations as per the terms and conditions
of being issued spectrum.
The companies that have been issued notices are Etisalat, S-Tel,
Uninor, Loop Telecom, Videocon, Allianz Infra, Idea Cellular, Tata
Teleservices, Sistema Shyam Teleservices, Dishnet Wireless and
The bench sought a response from the Department of Telecom (DoT)
and the companies in three weeks and slated the next hearing Feb
1. The apex court also impleaded the Telecom Regulatory Authority
of India (TRAI) as a respondent in the petition.
"After considering the submission of the petitioner's counsel that
since TRAI has sent a letter dated Nov 15, 2010, to secretary,
DoT, which indicated that many companies have not complied with
roll-out obligations, we deem it fit to entertain the petition,"
the bench said.
"Accordingly, TRAI, through its secretary, is impleaded as a
The bench was hearing a petition filed by an NGO, Centre for
Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), that sought cancellation of the
licenses on the ground that all the norms were violated in
awarding scarce spectrum.
The bench was also hearing a petition filed by Janata Party chief
Subramanian Swamy who has sought identical directions. But the
bench asked him to make the firms that have not fulfilled the
roll-out obligations as parties and will hear the matter together.
Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who appeared for CPIL, elaborated the
grounds for demanding cancellation of the 2G licenses.
The bench also questioned the silence of TRAI, the highest
regulatory authority in the telecom sector, on the issue of
alleged delay in fulfilling roll-out obligations of companies
which were issued 2G spectrum licenses.
"Why did the TRAI not take action? Why was it silent for around
one year and seven months? TRAI is treated as the highest
regulatory authority in the telecom sector and even in terms of
the consumer, what was it doing," the bench asked.
When contradictions were mentioned in the loss to the national
exchequer on account of allegedly flouting the norms, the bench
said it will be for the government to spell out the figures.
"How much loss has the national exchequer suffered? We will ask
the government," said the bench. However, when Bhushan said the
Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in a report has given the
amount, the bench said it was not the government's version.
Bhushan submitted that there was a huge loss to the government as
the licenses were sold to other entities the next day after their
allocation at three times the original price. But the bench said
the amount of loss has now become a debatable issue.
When counsel made a submission that current Communications
Minister Kapil Sibal had disputed the report on the presumptive
loss estimate of Rs.1.76 lakh crore, the bench said: "We cannot
take cognisance of that as it is not part of the record."
Raja was forced to resign in November after the official auditor
indicted him in the spectrum allocation saga.
The Supreme Court is currently seized of two public interest
petitions seeking cancellation of allocation of telecom licences
to ineligible operators during Raja's tenure.
While one petition was filed jointly Dec 14 by various groups,
including CPIL, Telecom Watchdog and Common Cause, another was
filed by Janata Party chief Jan 4.
Several eminent people like former chief election commissioners
J.M. Lyngdoh, T.S. Krishnamurthy and N. Gopalaswami and former
central vigilance commissioner (CVC) P. Shankar are also
petitioners in the suits filed by civil society groups.
Citing the CAG report, the petitioners said 85 of the 122 licences
were given to companies which were not even eligible and as many
as 343 applications were not even considered by the DoT.
The petitions have also pointed out that even the sectoral
regulator has recommended cancellation of 69 out of the 122
licences as the licencees have failed to roll out their services
The petitions said internationally, in most legal systems,
transactions tainted by bribery or corruption or made in violation
of established norms and procedures are considered illegal and