Petitioners questions spectrum allocation policy in SC

Govt`s decision to allot 2G spectrum at allegedly "throwaway" prices by pursuing the first-come-first-served policy came under severe criticism in the Supreme Court.

New Delhi: Government`s decision to allot
2G spectrum at allegedly "throwaway" prices by pursuing the
first-come-first-served policy came under severe criticism on Wednesday in the Supreme Court which asked the regulator TRAI to
place its report on the purported loss caused to the public
exchequer.

The NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation and
Janata Party president Subramaniam Swamy alleged that the
policy adopted was illegal and aimed at benefiting few telecom
companies and all spectrum licenses allocated during the
tenure of former telecom minister A Raja needs to be
cancelled.
"The allotment of spectrum in 2008 at the price
prevailing in 2001 on first-come-first-served policy followed
by the government was arbitrary, illegal and was meant to
benefit few telecom companies," CPIL counsel Prashant Bhushan
submitted before a bench comprising justices G S Singhvi and A
K Ganguly.

Bhushan and Swamy sought cancellation of the spectrum
licenses by submitting that a clear message should be sent by
the court that no one can get away after manupulating
government policy particularly at a time when scams are
surfacing on a daily basis in the country.
"This country and its natural resourcess are not for
loot and this message needs to be sent out to private
companies and foreign investors. An impression has been
created that the country is a banana republic and it needs to
be dispelled," Bhushan said.

He placed before the court a newsreport about the
estimated loss by TRAI to the public exchequer in the
allocation of 2G spectrum.

The bench then asked the Additional Solicitor General
Indira Jaising to examine the issue and place before it the
TRAI report prepared last month.

He contended that not only spectrum was sold at a
"throwaway" price but government had even fiddled with
the first-come-first-served policy by preponing the cut-off
date from October 1 to September 25, 2008 for filing
applications, a move held illegal by the Delhi High Court.

"Preponing of the date eliminated one third of the
applicant companies who had applied for spectrum and Tata
Teleservices which had applied on the last was the first to
get spectrum while the other companies who applied way back in
2006 have failed to get spectrum so far," he said.

He said that even those companies which did not fulfil
eligibility criteria were given clearance a day before the
Letter of Intent (LoI) was issued by the Department of
Telecommunication on January 10, 2008.

Swamy also submitted that DoT had allotted spectrum to
even those companies which were having doubtful credentials by
ignoring an important aspect of national security.

He said United Arab Emirate-based Etisalat Telecom was
allowed despite Ministry of Home Affairs raising objections on
the issue of foreign exchange clearance.

Jaising said Government will put forth its views after
going through the documents.

The court was hearing the PILs filed by CPIL, Swamy
and others including Telecom Watchdog, Common Cause (both
NGOs), former Chief Election Commissioners J M Lyngdoh, T S
Krishnamurthy and N Gopalaswami along with former
Central Vigilance Commissioner P Shankar.

PTI