Centre playing with our order: SC says on 2G auctioning

The Supreme Court on Friday took strong exception to government decision of not putting on auction the entire 2G spectrum cancelled by it saying the Centre is "playing" with its order.

Updated: Nov 09, 2012, 19:06 PM IST

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday took strong exception to government decision of not putting on auction the entire 2G spectrum cancelled by it saying the Centre is "playing" with its order.

The apex court pulled up the Centre for restricting the the sale of spectrum and sought an explanation for not putting on auction the entire radiowaves cancelled by it on February 2.

"We can tell you clearly that you are not implementing our order but prima facie playing with our order," the bench of justices G S Singhvi and K S Radhakrishanan said while asking the government to explain on next date of hearing on November 19 when the court will reopen after Diwali.

"You are required to put spectrum of all 22 service areas cancelled by us on auction," the bench said, adding, "We are very clear that in terms of our direction you have to undertake the exercise for grant of licences for 2G spectrum in all the 22 circles".

The bench wanted to know why the Centre has not informed it during the last ten months after its order was passed on February 2 since the case has been taken up for hearing many times.

"We always believed that you are implementing our order in letter and spirit," the bench said and remarked in a lighter vein, "We have not so far started forgetting things".

The bench, however, made it clear the auction process which is scheduled for November 12 will go on.

While the Addition Solicitor General A S Chandhiok was making submission on the issue of auction, the bench said it was only concerned with its direction that all spectrum which was cancelled by it on February 2, 2012 was put for auction.

The centre, however, tried to justify its decision saying that it was done on the recommendation of TRAI. However, the bench was not satisfied with the explanation and said "it is your decision" and wondered why it was never earlier told about the recommendation of the regulating body.

The apex court was hearing a plea by an association of GSM mobile operators seeking inclusion of airwaves allocated to two Tata Group companies in the fresh auction of 122 cancelled 2G spectrum licenses.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has also sought a direction for auction 170 MHz more spectrum in the bidding.

COAI, an apex body of GSM operators, has sought the apex court's direction that all spectrum vacated by the cancellation of 122 telecom licences by the Feb 2 verdict should be put up for auction.

By "hoarding" scarce natural resources, the government is trying to "jack up" the price of spectrum, the COAI had said in the petition.

COAI has also sought apex court's direction to quash 83 MHz spectrum allotted to the Tata group under the dual-technology licence in 2008 and auction it.

According to COAI, 514 MHz of spectrum should be vacated following the cancellation of 122 licences and de-allocation of 83 MHz spectrum to Tatas.

Five companies - Bharti Airtel, Idea, Vodafone, Videocon and Telenor-promoted Telewings - are likely to participate in the fresh auction for 1800 MHz spectrum.

The COAI, which represents GSM operators Bharti Airtel, Idea and Vodafone has sought cancellation of licence and GSM spectrum of Tata group companies, Tata Teleservices Ltd (TTSL) and Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) Ltd (TTML) for inclusion in the fresh auction.

COAI has sought to include Tata's spectrum of 83.6 MHz allocated in 2008 along with the 122 2G licences in the fresh auction contending that TTSL and TTML received the radiowaves in pursuance of the same press releases through which the other 122 licences were granted.