New Delhi: The Centre Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to consider allowing the telecom operators, whose 2G licences were cancelled last year, to continue to operate after the January 18 deadline with a condition that they "will be liable to pay" for the spectrum as per the proposed price of the upcoming auction scheduled on March 11.
The Department of Telecom (DoT) apprised its stand in an affidavit which assumes importance as the court had permitted the telecom operators to continue to operate till January 18 this year.
The DoT asked the apex court to consider allowing it to grant "temporary licences" to such operators till the completion of the fresh bidding process.
It said this plea could be taken into account if the court decides not to extend any further the January 18 deadline as "such an arrangement will avoid disruption of services to the subscribers on one hand and safeguard the public revenue on the other".
As per the apex court order, 21 licences of Sistema Shyam Teleservices (MTS), 16 permits of Telenor controlled Uninor, 15 of Videocon and 3 CDMA permits of Tata Teleservices will stand cancelled from January 18 leading to disconnection of around 25 crore subscribers in the country.
Telenor is in the process to transferring the business of Uninor in 6 circles under new entity Telewings Communications, which recently won spectrum.
The affidavit said, "In case the court does not extend the period entitling the existing operators whose licences stand quashed to continue to operate beyond January 18 and in case such existing operators approach the government expressing their desire to continue to operate their services on such terms as the government may deem necessary ... May consider issuing temporary licences to such operators till commencement of operations by successful bidders in the proposed auction.
"...And subject to further condition that they will be liable to pay the price discovered for such spectrum in the proposed auction or the reserved price, whichever is higher, with effect from December 19, 2012."
The apex court had on November 27 last year said that the telecom operators, whose licences were cancelled by it but continued to operate due to delay on government's part to hold fresh auction of 2G spectrum, might have to pay for using the radiowaves on the basis of current price.
"These existing operators have been permitted by the order of this court to operate till January 18, 2013.
"In the event that this court is inclined to continue to permit these existing operators to offer services till the commencement of operation by the successful bidders in the proposed auction, the Government respectfully suggest that this court may impose a condition that such operators will be liable to pay for the spectrum allotted to them, the price discovered for such spectrum in the proposed auction or the reserved price, whichever is higher, with effect from December 19, 2012," the affidavit said.
The apex court had on February 2, 2012, quashed 122 2G licences while allowing the telecom operators to run their services for four months after which the order was to become operative.
The date expired on May 2 but the apex court allowed the operators to continue providing services as the Centre failed to put the spectrum on auction which was done only on November 12, 2012.
In today's affidavit, filed by telecom Secretary R Chandrashekhar, the DoT said that they are committed to ensure that the auction is conducted "fairly and impartially".
"The Government of India is committed to ensuring that such auction is conducted fairly and impartially and in a manner that all eligible persons can participate in the auction in keeping with the principles enunciated by this court in its judgement dated February 2, 2012.
"It is respectfully stated that existing operators whose licences stand quashed may or may not evince interest in such an auction if they are not allowed to offer their services pending conduct of such an auction and this may impact the discovery of an optimal price for spectrum," it said.