The Supreme Court Tuesday asked why telecom operators, who were providing service using cancelled 2G licences, should not pay the price determined in the Nov 12 auction of the spectrum.
The apex court said the operators should pay auction-determined prices from the date when the four months' period given to them in the February 2G verdict, cancelling the licences, expired. The 2G service providers with scrapped licences were allowed to continue giving service till the government carried out the auction.
As senior counsel P.P. Rao, appearing for the government made submission, the court said it was concerned with the limited question of whether directions in its Feb 2 judgment were carried out in its entirety and whether the spectrum that became available following the cancellation of the 122 2G licences in 22 circles was auctioned on the lines of 3G auction.
The apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan also asked the government if it had taken any policy decision on the allocation of telecom spectrum other than the one announced by Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal through the Jan 29, 2011, press release issued by the department of telecommunications (DoT).
The judges said this while considering an affidavit filed by Telecom Secretary R. Chandrashekhar who referred to the telecom regulator's recommendation for reframing of the spectrum of 800 MHz and 900 MHz bands.
The DoT secretary's affidavit said the regulator recommended that the zpectrum in 800 and 900 MHz bands should be reframed and that substitute spectrum should only be assigned in 1,800 MHz band for holders of spectrum in 900 MHz band, and spectrum in 450/1,900 MHz bands should be assigned for licence holders of 800 MHz band.
The affidavit said that the case for reframing was supported both by the apex court judgment of Feb 2 as well as the DoT release carrying the text of Sibal's statement.
Senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for one of the telecom service providers, told the court that the affidavit filed by the telecom secretary was misleading and talked about issues that were not even dealt with by the apex court.
Sibal's statement carried in the DoT press release Jan 29, 2011, said that the government would like to make a directional shift from the past practice and bring in a fresh policy regarding spectrum.
"In future, there will be no concept of contracted spectrum and, therefore, no concept of initial or start-up spectrum. Spectrum will be made available only through market driven process," it said.
The court was told that there was no mention of the farming of the 800 and 900 MHz band as was being said in the affidavit of the DoT secretary.
As senior counsel P.P. Rao, appearing for the government, made submission, the court said that it was concerned with the limited question of whether directions in its judgment Feb 2 were carried out in their entirety and whether the spectrum that became available following the cancellation of the 122 2G licences in 22 circles was auctioned on the lines of 3G auction.
The court told Rao that in all fairness the officer who was instructing him should have told him that a part of available spectrum was being withheld for the future.
While adjourning the hearing till Dec 4, the court permitted all the parties to file their response to the affidavit filed by the telecom secretary.