GSM body could take dept to SC on contempt of court charges
Armed with legal opinion from experts like former solicitor general Rohinton Nariman and senior Supreme Court advocate Harish Salve, the body representing mobile phone operators using GSM technology, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), has hardened its stance against the department of telecommunications (DoT) dragging its feet on cancelling 19 GSM licences that were granted to Tata Teleservices (TTSL) in January 2008 as part of the dual-technology policy.
The industry body, which is led by the country’s top three GSM operators — Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular — has decided to write to DoT one last time seeking cancellation of the licences. If the licences are still not cancelled, it would move the Supreme Court alleging “contempt of court order” by DoT.
“We are concerned over the liability of being culpable of providing interconnection services to a company whose licences are no longer valid,” Rajan S Mathews, COAI director general, told FE. “We will be sending the letter to DoT requesting compliance with the SC order in the next couple of days.”
When asked about the issue, a TTSL spokesperson said, “As a company policy, we do not comment on speculations.”
Ever since the Supreme Court cancelled the licences given by DoT on January 10, 2008, by its order of February 2, 2012, the COAI has maintained that it includes apart from the 122 GSM licences granted on a flawed first come, first served basis the19 dual-technology technology licences given to TTSL also.
This is because the apex court’s order had stated that all licences issued on or after January 10, 2008, stands cancelled due to irregularities in the allocation process. The order was not specific in terms of how many licences were to be cancelled, nor did it name operators whose licences were to be cancelled. Based on this, COAI contends that since the government awarded additional 19 GSM licences to TTSL through the same January 10, 2008, press release that it used to award the contentious 122 licences, the apex court order cancelling licences issued on that day includes TTSL’s mobile permits also.
However, TTSL maintained that the dual-technology policy was cleared by DoT in October 2007 and it was the first company to apply for GSM spectrum after that, but DoT in disregard of norms first granted spectrum to three other CDMA players whose applications