The Supreme Court today cast a shadow on Monday’s 2G spectrum auction by observing the authorities concerned had not followed its February 2 judgment, in which it had cancelled the licences of 122 telecom operators and called for fresh auctions in 22 service areas.
The court had asked the government yesterday to explain why the entire spectrum available after the cancellation of licences had not been put up for auction. Though the government today came up with a reply, the court found it unsatisfactory.
The bench, headed by G S Singhvi, told Additional Solicitor General A S Chandiok that the government was, prima facie, not carrying out the court order on fresh auctions. “You are playing with it,” the judges observed. The judgment referred to the 2G band in 22 service areas, “but you have not carried out the order in letter and spirit,” the court remarked.
“We know time is not enough, but we are giving you time to ponder. We will hear you before passing our order,” the judges said. They added it might amount to “revival of the proceedings.” The matter will be taken up after the Diwali recess when the reply of the government on the alleged violation of the judgment will be placed before the court.
Earlier, Chandiok had told the court the government had consulted the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and it was moving according to its recommendations. According to him, there were only five bidders for the 1,800-MHz band spectrum and no applications for the 800-MHz band.
When he reiterated that the Trai recommendations were being followed, the judges said the government did not inform the court about this. It came for extension of time for auction a few times, but did not place the documents regarding the details of the auction that were presented today. “You are coming now with a fait accompli. We have good memory of what happened before; this is not done,” the bench observed.
Telecom firms also assailed the Trai recommendations. Senior counsel Harish Salve, for the Tata telecom firms, described the recommendations as based on “wonky logic” and added “whole thing is a mess”.
He submitted Reliance Communications had already announced it would provide 4G facilities for Rs 50 a month, with unlimited calls and face-to-face talk on the phone. Naturally, no one would now be interested in the 1,800-MHz spectrum, which was going to be obsolete soon.