After sending the Union government's revenue calculations for a tumble, the 2G telecom scam now seems to be setting the course for adding to its expenses as well.
S Tel, a telecom services provider that got six licences issued on January 10, 2008, has asked the prime minister to return all its investments following the cancellation of its licences by the Supreme Court judgement, on February 2.The apex court said in its judgment that the government's first-come-first-served (FCFS) policy of issuing licences was wrong. The government has since then initiated the process to auction licences.
S Tel has argued that it made investments on the basis of the licences, that have since proven "illegal". Since the fault is with the legality of the licences, the government should return its investments, it said.
"We have received similar letters and have directed them to the concerned ministry," a senior PMO official said. "It is the Ministry and TRAI who will look into the matter."
"We are willing to return the 2G and 3G spectrum back to the government and offer the entire infrastructure developed thus far in the six category "C" circles," said the letter written by C Sivasankaran, chairman of Siva Group. "We are ready to submit to an independent audit to validate our claims for return of our investments. This would also make the process easier for the government to decide in providing succour to an operator who has been consigned to the bin for espousing the illegality of the cut off date."
Siva Group owns 57% equity in S Tel, the rest 43% is held by Baharin-based Batelco.
"Considering the mess of the 2G scam and investigation, Batelco has been very uncomfortable in being a partner in progress and sought our concurrence to sell their stake without any profit or loss at the invested amount of $175 million. We as an honourable business group, always put the image of the country and society before the business and decided to return the investment of $175 million to Batelco in an appropriate manner," said Sivasankaran. "This, in our opinion, would atleast save the already tarnished image of the country vis-à-vis foreign direct investment."
The company has not subscribers since the Supreme Court order and is in the process of migrating its existing subscribers to other operators.
S Tel had gone to court against former communications minister A Raja's policy of advancing the cut off date. It won the case -- and became a victim of the policy rather than a beneficiary, it claimed. "We have remained different from the pack and and were the first to question the arbitrary advancement of the cut off date," Sivasankaran said.
S Tel is the only new operator that acquired 3G spectrum through auction.