NEW DELHI: In a big blow to the UPA government, the Supreme Court on Thursday scrapped all the 122 2G licences issued during the tenure of former telecom minister A Raja. The apex court also left it to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) trial court to decide within two weeks on then finance minister P Chidambaram's alleged role in the 2G spectrum allocation.
The government was quick in defending itself and the defence was led by Union Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal. He said that the verdict was not an indictment of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or Union Home Minister P Chidambaram.
Sibal also pointed that the court had criticised the NDA's 'first come, first serve' policy.
The court has ordered that 2G spectrum be auctioned within four months, and the telecom regulator should issue guidelines for the same within two months.
Telecom regulator Trai has said that the subscribers have four months to switch to other service providers.
The court, in its order, termed the 2G spectrum allotment illegal and called it arbitrary and unconstitutional.
In a packed court room, with the UPA watching nervously, the court said: "The telecom minister and the officers of the DoT virtually gifted away the important national asset at throw away prices."
"We have no doubt that if the method of auction had been adopted for grant if licence which could be the only rational transparent method for distribution of national wealth, the nation would have been enriched by many thousand crores."
Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan and Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy, who have given sleepless nights to the UPA, came in for praise from the court.
"But for the vigilance of some enlightened citizens constantly fighting for clean governance and accountability, unsuspecting citizens and the nation would never have known how scarce natural resource spared by the Army has been grabbed by those who enjoy money power," said the court.
"This judgment will send a strong signal to the entire country and in particular to the corporate world," said Bhushan.
"I think this is the best judgment that would be possible for the three, and I think the country can be justifiably proud of the Supreme Court," said Swamy.
In another related verdict though, the court refused to set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to over see CBI investigations. However, recognising involvement of influential persons in the 2G case, the court has directed CVC to help it in monitoring investigations in this scam.