SC reserves order on 2G licences

A Bench of justices, comprising  G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly said that no principle of estoppel could come to the rescue of the companies who claimed their contract with the government on spectrum allocation was sacrosanct. “The estoppel is a principle based on equality. The principle cannot be applied to protect illegality,” Justice Ganguly said.

The court held marathon hearings for several days to hear the views of private companies, the government and the petitioners, including NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) and others. The petitioners, including   former chief election commissioner J M Lyngdoh, T S Krishnamurthy and N Gopalaswami claimed that the TRAI had recommended cancellation of 69 out of the 122 licences as they failed to roll out their services in time as per one of the conditions stipulated for grant of licences. In their submission, some private companies said that the spectrum allocation should be scrapped since 2003 if the first-come-first-served policy adopted during A Raja’s tenure as telecom minister was held to be illegal. Their plea was, however, strongly opposed by the established companies which claimed that they were allotted spectrum through valid means.

They submitted that if the court decided to cancel allotment of spectrum, it should do it retrospectively from 1995 as the same policy has been continuing since then.
Meanwhile, Attorney General G E Vahanvati told the apex court that the first-come-first-serve policy, started by the Department of Telecommunication for allocation of telecom licenses bundled with start-up spectrum since 2001, was never referred to TRAI for consultation. It (the policy) was begun for allocation of telecom spectrum to basic service operators, he said.

During the proceedings, CPIL’s counsel Prashant Bhushan sought the court’s direction for a CBI probe into the mysterious death of Sadiq Batcha, an aide of 2G scam accused and former telecom minister A Raja. The  court said that it would hear the plea if any written application into the death of  Batcha who was quizzed by the CBI, was filed.

In his arguments, Bhushan contended that the court’s verdict in the case would have catalysing effect on several things and send out a very important signal to investors worldwide. “In fact, the judgment would come as a setback to those who feel that they can get away with loot of natural resources because of the scale of corruption in the country,” he said. 

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