Supreme Court cancels tainted telecom licenses
TRAI Asked To Make Fresh Recommendation On Spectrum Allotment
New Delhi, Feb 2: In a fresh blow to the UPA government, the Supreme Court Thursday cancelled all 122 licenses for 2G spectrum allocated in 2008 and left the decision of a probe into the role of Home Minister P Chidambaram, then finance minister, to the trial court.
The Apex Court asked telecom regulator TRAI to make fresh recommendations on allotment of the licenses within four months. Ruling on the 2G spectrum case that is said to have cost the exchequer thousands of crores and saw several politicians, corporate honchos and then communications minister A Raja - who completed a year in jail Thursday - behind bars, the court ruled the companies would continue to offer services for four months.
During this time, telecom regulator would look into the matter and make recommendations for a fresh auction.
A Division Bench of the Court comprising of Justice G S Singhvi and Justice A K Ganguly said that the licenses had been allotted in “an unconstitutional and arbitrary manner.” The Court, while canceling all the 2G licenses issued by Raja in 2008, also imposed fine on six telecom operators. Three of them, Etisalat, Uninor and TATA,
have been penalized Rs 5 crore each. Loop and Essar have been fined Rs 50 lakh each. Uninor has protested saying it has been “unfairly treated” and is “being penalized for faults the Court has found in the government process.”
The Court also rejected the plea of one of the petitioners Dr Subramaniam Swamy seeking directions that Home Minister P Chidambaram’s role in the 2G Spectrum case should also be probed. The Court ruled that the CBI court already hearing the matter was free to do so. The matter is listed before the trial court on February 4 for a final order.
The Court further ruled that the Central Vigilance Commission would oversee the investigations in the case. There is no need for a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to monitor the 2G scam probe, it opined.
The Telephone Regulatory Authority of India chief JS Sarma has said the regulator will recommend that the licenses be allotted now through an auction, not on the “first-come-first-serve” policy that the government followed.
The Supreme Court verdict came in response to Dr Swamy’s petition seeking a CBI probe into Chidambaram’s alleged role in the spectrum scam, and on two pleas filed by noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan seeking cancellation of 2G licenses and the setting up of a SIT to probe the scam.
With the entire 2008 spectrum allocation all but nullified and elections to five states under way, the opposition seized its opportunity to renew its demand for the home minister’s resignation.
The ruling, just two days after the Supreme Court castigated the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), for delaying the prosecution of Raja, could not have come at a more difficult time for the government with the crucial Uttar Pradesh elections less than a week away.
“The government will examine the judgment and its implications,” Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the government’s chief troubleshooter, said.
While the government battled the inevitable political consequences, there were other implications too, particularly for millions of subscribers and investors.
Stocks of firms that face cancellation of telecom licenses fell sharply even as those of one established player registered handsome gains.
Experts also sought to clarify the position. Mobile number portability (MNP), which is in full force across the country, would help customers migrate without much trouble to an operator unaffected by the order.
The order does not affect companies that were granted licenses before 2008; 3G services for which licenses were auctioned would also not be interrupted.
CBI TO SUBMIT 2G PROBE REPORTS TO CVC
The Supreme Court said the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) would submit status reports on its probe into the 2G spectrum scam to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).
The CVC, after examining the report, would give its report to the Supreme Court in a sealed cover, the apex court said on a plea to set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) for day-to-day monitoring of the CBI probe into the scam.
The Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) had filed the plea seeking the setting up of an expert committee comprising retired judges and investigators.
(WITH INPUTS FROM IANS)
Lastupdate on : Thu, 2 Feb 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 2 Feb 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 3 Feb 2012 00:00:00 IST
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