Government given 3 more months to auction 2G licenses (Lead)

April 24th, 2012 - 8:07 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, April 24 (IANS) The Supreme Court Tuesday gave the central government three more months till August 31 to fulfill all requirements and auction 122 2G licenses which were cancelled by it in February.

An apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan, while extending the time, observed that the government was aware that something was wrong and this could have been avoided if a little effort was made.

While partially accepting the government’s plea seeking 400 days time till March 2013, the court extended the time by three months till Aug 31.

The court also gave time till September 7 to all the service operators whose licences have been cancelled to continue providing services.

As Attorney General G. Vahanvati tried to persuade the court that government needed 400 days time because of the difficulties involved in the auctioning of the cancelled 2G licences, the court asked: “You are seeking 400 days time. How much time did you (DoT) take in completing the process (of allocation of 2G licences) in 2008?”

The attorney General also told the court the recommendations made by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on the auctioning of 2G licences.

The apex court by its February 2, 2012, order had cancelled all the 122 licenses that were granted by former telecom minister A. Raja on and after January 10, 2008.

The court had said that all these licenses should be allocated after carrying out their auction. The court had given the government four months’ time till June 2 to complete the process of auctioning the cancelled licenses. This was also the date when the services being provided under the licenses that were cancelled were to be terminated.

However, the government cited procedural difficulties and sought 400 days’ time to complete the process of auctioning the cancelled 2G licenses. The court did not accept the government’s plea and gave it three months’ additional time to comply with its directions.

The Centre had moved the apex court on March 1 seeking time till March 2013 for the auctioning of the 2G licences and allocation of spectrum that were cancelled by the top court by its February 2, 2012 order.

The application for clarificatory orders/direction had sought the court’s nod for conducting the auction of the cancelled 2G licences broadly in accordance with the road map set forth by it.

Seeking more time for the auction of cancelled 2G licences and the allocation of spectrum, the application had pointed out that the government had already “undertaken a detailed examination of the steps involved in the conduct of the auction …and the process of auction, commencing with the receipt TRAI recommendations…will take atleast 400 days.”

Pointing out that the auction of 3G spectrum which was a “green field exercise starting with a clean slate” took 1560 days, the application seeking clarification/directions had said that the “planning and execution of 2G spectrum auction would be far more complicated task” as it would involve dealing with “both legacy issues as well as issues arising out of policy decisions.”

The application had said that “it is expected that the auction process will take at least 400 days and accordingly, the new licences and spectrum can be issued only in or around March 2013.”

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