NEW DELHI: The Cabinet on Tuesday approved a proposal to issue a Presidential reference seeking clarity on the Supreme Court’s order in February this year cancelling 122 2G telecom licences.
The Department of Telecom had sought the reference as it felt the SC order to cancel the licences—over the decision to issue them on a first-come-first-served (FCFS) basis instead of auctioning them—has ramifications in other sectors which also use the FCFS policy to allocate natural resources.
The strategic move comes three days ahead of the apex court hearing on Friday on the government’s limited review petition on the proce­ss of auction to be followed on the cancelled licences.
The Cabinet has added to the original Presidential reference a new question, namely why should foreign companies who took equity stake in companies that got the licences be penalised, as they acted in good faith. The proposal for Presidential reference has been cleared, said Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni after the Cabinet meeting.
The Cabinet had asked Solicitor General Rohinton F Nariman to suggest the terms of reference for President Pratibha Patil, terming it a public interest issue (see box) that has arisen from the cancellation of 122 telecom licences.
Sources said the public interest issue arose as it the involves investment of more than `14,000 crore by eight operators, whose licences have been cancelled, which also narrows subscribers’ choice of network providers.
Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia has, however, trashed the Communications Ministry’s reason to seek the reference.