Apex court refuses to stay 2G spectrum auction

Quashes plea for extension by Bharti Airtel, Vodafone

Apex court refuses to stay 2G spectrum auction

The Supreme Court on Sunday refused to allow a plea by telecom firms Bharti Airtel and Vodafone, seeking a stay on Monday’s spectrum auction and an extension of their licence for another 10 years.

The two companies rushed to the apex court challenging the January 31 order of the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), which had rejected their bid to secure an order for extension of their licence.

A bench of Justices A R Dave and S A Bobde, which assembled on Sunday, admitted the appeals filed by Airtel and Vodafone against telecom tribunal’s order.

Senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Abhishek M Singhvi, appearing for Airtel and Vodafone respectively, contended that the existing licences for the spectrum should be extended instead of putting them on auction. Rohatgi submitted that the apex court should ask the telecom department not to declare the result of the auction till it decides the appeals, while Singhvi contended that Vodafone was having the licence for 20 years since 1994. However, the bench was not convinced and went on to observe, “It does not mean that you should have a monopoly”.

Additional Solicitor General K V Viswanathan, appearing for the Centre, opposed their plea saying, “Any observation from you (apex court) can scare away other bidders and can take away the vibrancy of the spectrum auction.”

The telecom companies contended that they had made huge investments ranging into several crores of rupees and hence had the legitimate expectation for an extension.

The TDSAT had rejected their plea saying, “The petitioners have failed to establish their right for extension in terms of the relevant provisions in their licenses, the matter ends there.”

The tribunal had held that it was satisfied with the reason based on which the Department of Telecom had denied them extension and had asked telecom companies to participate in the spectrum auction.

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