A new dimension has come out in the 2G spectrum case, the Supreme court on Wednesday said after going through a government file pertaining to cancellation and restoration of license to Chennai-based telecom operator S-Tel during the tenure of A. Raja.
A bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly went through the file which was placed before it on its direction after it was alleged that the Centre had adopted “arm-twisting” policy against the company for challenging DoT’s policy in 2G spectrum allocation in court.
“File placed by the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) says something more. It tells about a new dimension which is all together different,” the court said and asked ASG Indira Jaising to bring the file on Thursday when the government would start arguing its case.
The apex court had on Tuesday asked the Department of Telecom (DoT) to place before it the file concerning cancellation and restoration of licence of S-Tel which had challenged the advancement of cut-off date for allocation of spectrum on first-cum-first-serve basis in September 2007.
A bench asked the government to produce the two letters written by the DoT on March 5, 2010, and April 15, 2010, after advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), said it reflected the “arm-twisting” policy adopted by Raja’s department against S-Tel.
Telecom firms at war
"Telecom companies are at war,” was how the Centre on Wednesday described the ongoing legal battle in the Supreme Court on the issue of 2G spectrum allocation.
“There is some type of war which is going on among the service providers in the sector. Some of them are supporting the government policy (on 2G spectrum) and some of them are opposing,” Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising told a bench comprising justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly.
Ms. Jaising made the statement as she wanted the court’s permission to advance the government’s submission after all other parties holding divergent views finished their arguments.
“I would request the court to adopt this procedure as some of the companies would be in favour and others would oppose the government policy. It would be better for the government to argue after hearing the stands of the companies,” she said.
The Bench, however, rejected the plea of the government saying the most important aspect of the case is relating to the policy and the government should first make its stand clear on this aspect.
“All the companies are beneficiaries of your policy.
So, no one would oppose you(govt),” the bench remarked.
In an indirect reference to leading GSM telecom operators Airtel, Vodafone and Idea who along with their association COAI have approached the court with a plea to be made parties in the case, Ms. Jaising said there are some aggrieved companies also in the case.
The GSM service providers had on Tuesday submitted that they should be heard in the matter as they have challenged the Centre’s policy of allocating GSM spectrum to CDMA operators under dual technology to service providers like Reliance Communication and Tata Tele Services.
It was alleged that the two companies were alloted GSM spectrum under the dual technology regime ignoring several applicants who had applied for the licence.
“It is in the interest of justice that the applicants be permitted to intervene at the hearing and to make appropriate submission especially the submission that the investigation by CBI should not in any way be influenced by the TDSAT judgement (allowing use of dual technology),” the GSM lobby group COAI along with leading operators -- Airtel, Vodafone and Idea -- said in its application.