The Supreme Court on Thursday lifted its embargo and allowed the government to finalise the result of the just-concluded biggest and "fiercest" auction for telecom spectrum, fetching a whopping revenue of Rs 1.09 lakh crore.
The apex court said the finalisation of the auction was subject to the outcome of matters pending before it, in which the legality of the "design of the notice inviting tender (NIT)" for the spectrum has been challenged by major telecom players including Bharti Hexacom Ltd and Reliance Telecom Ltd.
However, a bench comprising Justices Dipak Misra and PK Pant said it was "inclined" to modify its February 26 order by which it had allowed the scheduled commencement of auction from March 4, with the condition that "the same shall not be finalised without the leave of this Court".
"We are inclined to modify our order and give Union of India the liberty to finalise the auction and proceed further. All the successful bidders have to be instructed (by the government) that the auction on finalisation will be subject to the outcome of cases (before it)," the bench said.
The order allowing government to finalise the auction result would immediately lead to upfront payment of over Rs 28,000 crore in state exchequer by the successful bidders.
It said government would ask all the successful bidders to implead themselves as party in the matter in the apex court after information about the auction which concluded yesterday is made public.
"Needless to say that they (successful bidders) are under obligation as per the law for impleadment, as any order is likely to affect them. "The impleaded parties shall file their respective affidavits stating their stand in the affidavits," the bench said while posting the matter for hearing on April 16, when several other issues questioning the legality of the auction process would be examined.
The apex court on February 26 had allowed the government to go ahead with the auction of spectrum of bands 800, 900, 1800 and 2100 for all states, which according to Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi witnessed a "fiercest" auction fetching a revenue of Rs 1.09 lakh crore.
Rohatgi said if the order of stay was not modified, the centre would face difficulties in collecting earnest money of Rs 28,000 crore by March 31 emerging from the auction, in which the successful bidders have to deposit the amount within 10 days.