Monday, January 10, 2011

Supreme Court notice to Centre, 11 telecom firms

The Supreme Court, which is already monitoring the investigation in the 2G spectrum scam, on Monday issued notice to the Centre on a petition seeking a direction to cancel the 2G spectrum licences allegedly issued illegally during the tenure of the former Communications Minister, A. Raja.
The petition was filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation, the former Chief Election Commissioners, J.M. Lyngdoh, T.S. Krishnamurthy and N. Gopalaswami, and the former Central Vigilance Commissioner, P. Shankar and others.
A Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly also issued notice to the 11 companies —Etisalat; Uninor; Loop Telecom; Videocon; S-Tel; Allianz Infra; Idea Cellular, Tata Tele Services, Sistema Shyam Teleservices, Dishnet wireless and Vodafone-Essar — which were granted licences after January 2008.
The Bench posted the matter for further hearing on February 1.
It asked Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy who also sought a similar relief, to implead the licencees so that it could pass appropriate orders. Dr. Swamy drew the court's attention to the statement made by Communications Minister Kapil Sibal that no loss was caused in the 2G spectrum allocation and said he would be filing a contempt application.
When Justice Singhvi wanted to know from counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for CPIL, as to “who is the competent authority to cancel the licences if it is illegal,” Mr. Bhushan said, “it can be done by the government itself.” When the judge wanted to know whether the court had the power to cancel the licences of companies which had not fulfilled the roll-out obligations, counsel answered in the affirmative. The court then asked counsel to implead the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) as a party pointing out that it had remained silent when the telecom companies failed to fulfil the roll-out obligations within the stipulated period.
When Mr. Bhushan submitted that TRAI had recommended cancellation of the licences, Justice Singhvi said: “Why did TRAI not take any action for 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?”

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