New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday cancelled the 122 2G spectrum licences granted by former telecom minister A Raja on the ground that they were issued in a "totally arbitrary and unconstitutional" manner.
Imposing a fine of Rs 5 crore each on three telecom companies, which offloaded their shares after getting the licenses, the court directed regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to make fresh recommendations on allocation of 2G licences.
Asking the government to take steps on the recommendations of TRAI within a month, a bench comprising justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly said the allocation of spectrum will be done through the policy of auction within four months.
The order came on petitions filed by NGO CPIL and Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy alleging scam in the allocation of spectrum licences by Raja in January, 2008 during the tenure of UPA-I government, on which the CAG had assumed the presumptive loss of upto Rs 1.76 lakhs.
The 122 licences were given by Raja for over Rs 9,000 crore, while 3G auctions for a smaller number of licences had fetched the government a sum of Rs 69,000 crores.
The companies that are set to lose on account of the cancellation of the licences are Uninor (joint venture between Unitech and Telenor of Norway), Loop Telecom, Sistema Shyam (joint venture between Shyam and Sistema of Russia), Etisalat DB (joint venture between Swan and Etisalat of UAE), S Tel, Videocon, Tatas and Idea.
Chidambaram's role: The Supreme Court left it to the trial court to decide on the demand for investigation of the alleged role of Home Minister P Chidambaram into the 2G spectrum allocation scam but refused to give direction to CBI on the issue.
The apex court said that the trial court should decide the matter within two weeks.
Special CBI Judge O P Saini, who is hearing a separate petition of Swamy to prosecute Chidambaram, has already reserved his order for February 4.
Swamy had contended that Chidambaram as finance minister had a role in fixation of prices of the licenses and in the dilution of shares by the telecom firms to two foreign companies.
Swamy reacted to the verdict by saying that this is the best judgement that could be possible. "The country can be justifiably proud of Supreme Court," he said.
Reports to CVC: The Court asked the CBI to file status reports on its ongoing probe into the 2G spectrum allocation case to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).
The court's decision came on a plea for setting up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to look into the 2G case. The bench asked CBI to submit status reports on further investigation into the matter to the CVC which will assist the court.
Govt will respond, says Congress: The Congress left it to the government to respond to the Supreme Court verdict in the 2G scam case, noting that the court had not passed any remarks against Home Minister P Chidambaram.
"The Supreme Court has taken a decision. The government will respond to it," AICC General Secretary and incharge of media department, Janardhan Dwivedi said.
The party also noted that the apex court has not passed any remark against Chidambaram for his alleged role in the 2G case but it withheld detailed comment pending a study of the order.
"We have respect for the judgement of the Supreme Court. They have not passed any remarks against the Home Minister and, as far as telecom licences are concerned, which are cancelled, we have not gone through the judgement so far," party spokesperson Rashid Alvi said.
Kapil Sibal meets PM: Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh shortly after the Supreme Court judgement. He is understood to have discussed the implications of the Court order and steps to be taken.
'A historic order': Lawyer Prashant Bhushan has said the SC order will send a strong signal to the corporates and corrupt public officials who retain the benefits of illegal acts.
"It is a historic judgement...this judgement will send a strong signal to the entire country and in particular the corporate world that this country is no longer willing to allow these corrupt corporates and the corrupt public officials to retain the benefits of illegal and corrupt acts," he told reporters outside Supreme Court after the judgement.
Bhushan, who was one of the petitioners in the 2G case, said the judgement will also help change the nature the way corruption is dealt with.
He also said the judgement will help the public exchequer to recover losses caused to the grant of 2G licences by then Telecom minister A Raja in January 2008 and thereafter.