choose the circles when the process for second round of auction will commence which is scheduled for March 11.
The apex court on January 14 had extended till February 4 the January 18 deadline for existing operators of 2G spectrum to carry out operations. The deadline was further extended till further orders.
The court in the earlier hearing wanted the Centre to spell out the price to be charged from the telecom companies for continuing with their services after cancellation of licences last year.
The apex court had on February 2, last year cancelled 122 licences for the 2G spectrum and had directed the DoT to hold fresh auction for them within four months which has been extended by interim orders from time to time.
During the hearing, the bench had observed that the telecom operators enjoyed the benefit of its order to continue with operations till the fresh auction and they are liable to pay the reserved price after January 18, 2013.
The court also said the decision to reduce the bidding price after the first round of auction for spectrum is bound to evoke further litigation.
Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), which was one of the PIL petitioners on whose plea the licences of 2G were cancelled, said existing operators should not be allowed to continue as consumers have the option to move to other service providers.
The Centre had asked the court to consider allowing telecom operators, whose 2G licences were cancelled last year, to continue to operate after the January 18 deadline with a condition that they "will be liable to pay" for the spectrum as per the proposed price of the upcoming auction on March 11.
The Department of Telecom (DoT) had stated its stand in an affidavit which assumes importance as the court has permitted the telecom operators to continue to operate till January 18.
The DoT had asked the apex court to consider allowing it to grant "temporary licences" to such operators till the completion of the fresh bidding process.
It said this plea could be