SC asks agencies to coordinate on 2G spectrum probe, review progress

Last Updated: Wed, Nov 28, 2012 05:54 hrs

The Supreme Court orders passed today left no room to doubt its intention to continue to monitor the details of the 2G telecom spectrum scam.

The apex court asked top executives of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Income Tax Department and the Enforcement Directorate to meet once in two weeks to discuss all aspects of the issue and review the progress of the investigation in a co-ordinated manner.

In another petition, the bench consisting of judges G S Singhvi and K S Radhakrishnan asked the Centre to state next week whether the Department of Telecom or the government had taken a decision on the auction of the excess spectrum before issuing a press release on October 21, 2011.

This order followed the government counsel's submission that the press release contained the government decision. The new policy was taken for re-farming the spectrum in the background of liberalisation of the sector. The judges wanted to know whether the press release was based on a decision by the authorities and what the validity of the press release was. They also enquired from the government counsel whether the officials had taken a considered decision, with notings on the files.

The judges reiterated their view that the officials should have indicated the spectrum available for auction when the government came for extension of the deadline set by the Supreme Court judgment in February this year. In that judgment, 122 licences were cancelled and a re-auction was ordered within four months, later extended when the government expressed its inability to keep the deadline.

The judges further observed that the telecom operators which have gained thanks to the extension of time and government delays must pay for the delayed period. This aspect will be considered later.

Prashant Bhushan, representing the Centre for Public Interest Litigation that started it all, stated that when the controversy over the Comptroller & Auditor General (CAG) report started, the air waves were not so saturated as they are now, when only 26 per cent of people are without mobile phones. This has reduced the market for new operators, he said.

While he alleged the latest CAG controversy over the notional loss was being exploited by the government and the failure of the auction was made an argument by it, the government counsel protested against the statement. The judges clarified they would not take note of the contention.

Telecom operators Idea and Vodafone, represented by senior counsel Abhishek Singhvi, asserted that all spectrum should come back to the common pool. He said that the latest statement of the government before the court was misleading.

Earlier, the government counsel wanted a power point presentation of the technical aspects of the spectrum to give a background to the judges. They rejected the prayer, observing that a "power point presentation is not necessary to understand the judgement and to verify whether the orders have been implemented."

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