Raja brushed off PM's auction idea, finds SC
The Supreme Court, in its Thursday’s judgment, accepted the UPA government's sequence of events leading to the issuance of 122 spectrum licences by the telecommunication ministry under A Raja on January 10, 2008.
The judgment did not find any fault on part of the prime minister, then finance minister or the ministry of finance.
It stated that the January 9, 2008, meeting of Telecom Commission was deliberately postponed because then finance secretary, through a letter dated November 22, 2007, had strongly objected to the Department of Telecom (DoT) charging the entry fee fixed in 2001.
Although the PM had suggested that a fair and transparent method be adopted for the grant of Universal Access Services licences through auction, the minister brushed aside the suggestion. The court found that while making recommendations on August 28, 2007, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had recognised that spectrum was a scarce commodity. But it still recommended allocation on the basis of 2001 prices — R1,600 crore — invoking the level playing field theory.
The court found the recommendations became a handle for the then telecom minister and DoT officials, who virtually gave away a national asset.
The bench found that Trai recommendations were not placed before the full Telecom Commission, which, among others, would have included the finance secretary. The notice of the meeting was not given to any non-permanent member.
The verdict said the minister was conscious of the fact that the finance secretary had objected to the allocation of 2G spectrum at 2001 rates. But he did not consult the finance minister or the finance ministry officials.
The court found that on November 2, 2007, within hours of receiving the PM's suggestions, the telecom minister rejected it on the grounds that it would not provide a level playing field. The meeting of full Telecom Commission, scheduled for January 9, 2008, to discuss performance of telecom sector and pricing of spectrum, was postponed to January 15, 2008. All the applicants including those who were not eligible for the UAS licence, collected their LoIs on January 10, 2008.