NEWDELHI: The Supreme Court on Thursday cancelled 122 2G spectrum licences that were allocated when A Raja was Telecom Minister. A two-judge bench of Justices G S Singhvi and Asok Kumar Ganguly ordered the cancellation of licences on the ground that they were issued in a totally “arbitrary” and “unconstitutional” manner.
In addition to this, the Bench also imposed a fine of `5 crore each on three telecom companies which offloaded their shares after getting the licences.
Seeking fresh recommendations from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India with regard to allocation of 2G licences, the Bench directed the government to take steps accordingly within a month. The judges also said that the allocation of the scarce spectrum should be done through the transparent policy of auction within a period of four months.
This order came on petitions filed by the NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation and Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy, who alleged that there were large-scale irregularities in the allocation of 2G spectrum licences by then Telecom Minister Raja in January 2008. The Comptroller And Auditor General had calculated a presumptive loss of `1.76 lakh crore on the scam.
All licences issued at the time—a total of 122—were sanctioned by Raja for a little over `9,000 crore, whereas 3G auctions for a smaller number of licences had fetched the government a sum of `69,000 crore.
The apex court, however, found no fault with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, then Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram or the Ministry he headed. The bench, instead strongly pulled up Raja by placing the entire blame on him for the manner in which he manipulated the grant of licences.
The Bench said that recommendations made by the Telecom Regulatory Authority in 2007 supporting the first-come first-serve policy was placed before the telecom commission in October but the panel’s four non-permanent members, including the Finance Secretary, were not informed about the meeting. A week later, Raja accepted the panel’s decision okaying TRAI’s recommendation but did not get in touch with the Finance Ministry to finalise the spectrum pricing formula. As Raja was aware of the Finance Secretary’s objection spectrum allocation at 2001 rates, he did not consult then Finance Minister Chidambaram or other officers in the Ministry, the two judges said.