Apex court acts tough on truant telcos
Companies absent at fresh auction to discontinue service
Telecom companies which did not participate in the fresh auction for 2G spectrum or were unsuccessful in the bidding, could no longer continue operation, the Supreme Court held on Friday.
A bench of justices G S Singhvi and K S Radhakrishnan also directed the successful bidders to start operations in their respective circles with immediate effect.
Fresh auctions were held on November 12 and 14 last year.
“The telecom companies which have been unsuccessful in the bidding and those after the cancellation of the licences did not participate in the fresh auction are directed to cease from continuing operation forthwith and the successful bidders will immediately start in their respective circles,” the court said.
The apex court, on February 2 last year, scrapped licences of 122 companies but allowed them to continue operations till alternative arrangements were made.
The telecom companies which continued operations even after their licences were scrapped, will have to pay the reserved price fixed for the licences in the first round of the auction held in November 2012.
The bench said its verdict was not applicable to telecom companies holding the spectrum in the 900 MHz band.
“The February 2, 2012, order will have no bearing on litigation relating to 900 MHz band,” the bench said, noting that the 900 MHz band was not the subject matter before the court.
While cancelling the 122 licences, the court had directed the telecom department to hold fresh auctions within four months.
The four-month deadline was extended several times. The Centre, on January 8, urged the apex court to allow it to grant temporary licences to the telecom companies whose licences were scrapped, to continue their operation beyond the January 18 deadline, till fresh auctions took place.
The department of telecom maintained that those operators will be liable to pay according to the proposed price fixed in the next auction, to be held on March 11.
According to the apex court order, 21 licences of Sistema Shyam Teleservices (MTS), 16 permits of Telenor controlled Uninor, 15 of Videocon and three CDMA permits of Tata Teleservices will stand cancelled from January 18, leading to disconnection of around 25 crore subscribers in the country.