The Supreme Court on Tuesday will a public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed by an NGO challenging grant of 4G licences to Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (RJIL). Last year in November , a Bench of Justices TS Thakur and Kurian Joseph fixed January 12 for the hearing.
What is the case?
A Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) filed in 2014 in the Supreme Court that questions government’s action to allow Reliance Jio Infocomm to provide voice telephony services using Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) spectrum.
Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) has called it a “rigged auction” in its draft report. It claimed to have resulted in about R22,000 crore to national exchequer. The final CAG report stated a loss of R3,367 crore.
Why is it allegedly rigged?
Till 2008 the government sold spectrum and licence together. Operator’s paid R1658 cr for a pan India Unified Access Service Licence. But in 2013 Jio secured Universal Licence. This allowed the company to offer voice telephony it claimed.
How is Jio alleged to have violated the government rules?
Jio had not directly won the BWA spectrum. It secured the spectrum in 2010 with purchase of 95 per cent stake in Infotel Broadband Services Ltd (IBSL). This company held Internet services providers licence and had successfully won all India BWA spectrum in auction. However as a Category-I ISP licencee IBSL could provide only data service, which, it is alleged prohibits RJio to offer voice.
What is the claim by Jio?
In 2013, government introduced Unified Licence (UL) policy and delinked the licence from spectrum. This allowed Jio to opt for an UL by paying R15 crore. But spectrum had to be bought through auction. So this made it difficult for Jio to migrate the IBSL licence to UL since it held an ISP licence. But since Jio paid R1658 crore for UL, it claimed that it was within its right to offer voice and data both under the UL.