Three days after telecom minister Kapil Sibal said there was no scam in the allocation of 2G spectrum licenses by his predecessor A Raja, the Supreme Court on Monday asked the Centre and 11 telecom companies to explain why the licenses should not be cancelled.
A Bench comprising Justice GS Singhvi and Justice AK Ganguly also issued notices to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to explain why it had not taken action against telecom companies that had failed to fulfill their rollout obligations.
The court was hearing a petition filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), an NGO, which has sought cancellation of the licenses that it said were issued in violation of all norms. The petition is primarily based on a CAG report that said the scam could have cost the exchequer up to R1.76 crore.
The department of telecommunications (DoT) had allotted 122 licenses in January 2008. According to the petitioner, 69 licensees have not complied with the rollout obligation in accordance with the terms and conditions of the licenses. The CAG report had said 85 license holders were “ineligible”.
The apex court, however, refused to go into Sibal’s statement that had disputed the figure of R 1.76 lakh crore. “We cannot take cognisance of that as it is not part of our record here,” the Bench said.
“Whether government has suffered a loss or not has become debatable. How much loss has the national exchequer suffered?” it added.
But the Congress defended the telecom minister’s statement. “The CAG has itself stated in the report that the figure of R 1.76 lakh crore is presumptive. How can a figure for loss be calculated on presumptions?” asked party spokesperson Manish Tewari.
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari added the minister’s remarks were reasonable and based on logic. The court gave three weeks time to the respondents and fixed February 1 as the next date of hearing. It also asked CPIL counsel Prashant Bhushan to place a copy of the licence before the court to ascertain whether a judicial forum could issue cancellation orders if a company failed to comply with the rollout obligations.
The court, however, did not issue notice to Janata Party leader Subramanium Swamy’s petition seeking a similar relief in the 2G case. It asked Swamy to implead all the licence holders as respondents in his petition. It will hear both PILs on the next date of hearing.