The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed pleas by two Vodafone companies (formerly Sterling Cellular Ltd and Hutchison Max) in a case related to grant of additional spectrum during 2002 by the then telecom minister Pramod Mahajan.
The companies claimed that the issue did not form part of the main 2G spectrum allocation case.
A bench headed by Justice T S Thakur while dismissing their plea said that this was a frivolous application made to prevent the normal course of the judicial process. “We want to come down heavily on such clients who try to delay the trial endlessly. This is most improper. Richer the client, the greater the propensity of prolonging the matter…Are you people somehow bent on preventing the trial?,” judge Thakur asked, while agreeing with the finding of the lower court judge O P Saini.
The bench also said that such petitions bring disrepute to the institution. “We don’t want to hear such petitions. We don’t want to fall prey to this. You have done it before the trial court and the CBI judge has dealt with it. You (Vodafone firms) have been let off very lightly,” Justice Thakur said while refusing to quash the order that imposed cost on them.
“For five months you kept the judge busy reading the files entirely. He had to write 74 pages just to show that he has the jurisdiction,” the bench said.
Challenging the July 23 order of the special 2G court which said that it had the jurisdiction to hear the additional spectrum cases, senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Siddharth Luthra, on behalf of the two companies, argued that their case dealt with additional spectrum given to existing licensees, whereas the main 2G spectrum case was regarding allotment of fresh licences to those who were new licensees. Singhvi further said that by considering the additional spectrum case under the ambit of the 2G case, the right of the parties to approach the high court against the orders of the trial court were taken away.
An earlier Supreme Court order had said that all appeals against the special court orders would be challenged in the apex court only. CBI had filed a charge sheet on December 21, 2012 against former telecom secretary Shyamal Ghosh and three telecom firms—Bharti Cellular Ltd, Hutchison Max Telecom Pvt (now known as Vodafone India) and Sterling Cellular (now known as Vodafone Mobile Service). CBI had charge sheeted them as accused in the case relating to the Department of Telecommunications allocating additional spectrum which had allegedly resulted in a loss of Rs 846 crore to the exchequer.
In the 57-page charge sheet, CBI has booked Shyamal Ghosh and the three firms for the offences of criminal conspiracy (120-B) of the IPC and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.