The Supreme Court will hear on December 15 a special leave petition (SLP) filed by the Union government against a judgment of the Delhi High Court holding as arbitrary the decision to advance the cut-off date for release of 2G spectrum to new telecom operators from October 1, 2007 to September 25, 2007.

A three-judge Bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices B. Sudershan Reddy and P. Sathasivam fixed the date after hearing Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam and senior counsel C.S. Vaidynathan for the respondent. S. Tel Ltd.

The SLP said, “Spectrum is the most important, finite natural resource of the information age. It is essential for companies, attempting to enter the telecom market in India, for providing mobile services. When a limited number of telecom operators existed in the field, the demand for spectrum could be reasonably met by the government.”

It said that a large number of applications were received by October 1, 2007 and there were not enough spectrums to satisfy all applicants. The government, therefore, decided to first process only the applications received up to the announcement of the cut-off date and to keep the rest of the applications in abeyance. It contended that putting them in abeyance to be considered later could not possibly be said to be arbitrary or contrary to the principles of legitimate expectation that had no possible application to this case.

Assailing the High Court judgment, the SLP said that the court would not interfere with the policy decision, unless policy decision could be faulted on the ground of mala fide, unreasonableness, arbitrariness or unfairness.

It said, “The mere fact that it would hurt the business interest of a party would not justify invalidating the policy. In tax and economic regulation cases, there are good reasons for judicial restraint, if not judicial deference, to judgment of the executive.”

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