SC notice to Centre, telecom firms on spectrum allocation
New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday issued notices to the Centre and seven telecom firms including Bharti Airtel and Vodafone on a plea for cancellation of 2G spectrum beyond 2x4.5 MHz for metros and 2x4.4 MHz for other circles, allocated to the firms without additional fees.
A bench of justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhyay granted them four weeks times to file their replies on the petition, which pleaded that its separate plea to cancel additional spectrum allocated to these firms, pending with the Delhi High Court since 2008, be shifted to the apex court.
The other telecom companies which have been issued notices are Reliance Telecom Ltd, Idea Cellular Ltd, Loop Mobile (India) Limited, Spice Communications Pvt Ltd and Aircel Cellular Ltd.
The petitioner, Telecom Watchdog, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) pleaded that its case be heard by the apex court as a similar matter is pending here.
In a similar matter, the Supreme Court on January 30, had sought the replies of the Centre and telecom firms on a plea challenging the allocation of 2G spectrum beyond the entry level of 4.4 MHz and 6.2 MHz without charging additional fees from them.
It had also issued a notice to the Ministry of Finance, Department of Telecom (DoT), Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and various telecom firms including Airtel, Vofafone, Idea, Loop and Tata on a plea for reclaiming all the spectrum quantity allocated beyond the contracted quantum of 6.2 MHz from the telecom firms.
The apex court had issued notices earlier on January 30 on a petition by advocate Yakesh Anand, who had challenged the Delhi High Court's decision refusing to entertain his plea.
He had also sought a direction to the government to recover Rs 36,993 crore, as estimated by CAG, for the excess spectrum held by these telcos.
The petitioner had sought a CBI probe into the alleged conspiracy between operators and DoT officials for allotment of excess spectrum between 1996 and 2008.
The high court had on December 21 last year refused to hear the petition saying the Supreme Court is monitoring a case relating to the grant of 2G licences and, moreover, the trial in the case, too, was on.
The court had brushed aside Anand's contention that the substance of the case being monitored by the apex court is different.
Anand, in his petition, had said the spectrum, a scarce natural resource, was "illegally" distributed to the telecom operators without charging any spectrum fee from them since 1996 and it has caused a loss to the tune of around Rs 37,000 crore to the exchequer.
The petition had said a maximum of 4.4 MHz spectrum could be alloted to the telecom operators, which were awarded licence in 1994-95, and 6.2 MHz to those which were awarded the licence after 2001 against the payment of entry fee and grant of spectrum beyond that had to be charged.