Stung by the Delhi High Court’s verdict that slammed the Department of Telecom for ’arbitrarily’ advancing the cut-off date for release of 2G spectrum to new telecom operators, the government has challenged the order before the Supreme Court.
The DoT filed a Special Leave Petition (SLP) in the Supreme Court last week saying all the rules and regulations were followed while allocating licences for 2G spectrum to new mobile operators.
One of the new telecom operators S Tel had approached the Delhi Court challenging DoT’s decision to advance the cut-off date due to which Chennai-based C. Sivasankaram-led S Tel was denied licences in 16 circles.
Telecom Minister A. Raja has come under severe criticism for his decision to advance the cut-off date with some quarter alleging that it was done to favour only a handful of companies.
Companies, including Unitech, Swan Telecom, Loop, Datacom, Shyam-Sistema and S Tel among others were given licences in January 2008 followed by 2G spectrum at a cost of Rs. 1,658 crore for pan-India operations.
The DoT has stood its ground that no wrong has been done and keeping in mind the availability of spectrum the decision was taken.
A division bench headed by Chief Justice A.P. Shah had said there was no “rational” in DoT’s decision to advance the deadline from October 1, 2007, to September 25, 2007.
The Appellant (DoT) has been unable to show that its decision to revise the cut-off date after receiving the application of respondent (S Tel) was based on some rational criteria. It is vulnerable to being labelled arbitrary and irrational,” the court said directing the Department of Telecom to pay Rs. 20,000 within four weeks.
The bench further said after receiving applications that DoT can not change the criteria.
“The government would have to justify its decision to revise the cut-off date already fixed, after the applications have been received from persons acting on the basis of earlier cut-off date,” the court said.
Over allotment of spectrum to S Tel, the court had said that there was no guarantee of allocation of radio frequencies to the licence holder.
It further observed that DoT has to still allot spectrum to 110 applicants who have applied up to September 25, 2007.