Column : The telecom tangle continues

Written by Anandita Singh Mankotia | Updated: Dec 1 2009, 03:37am hrs
Should A Raja continue to be telecom minister This newspaper has brought to light how norms were twisted by the department of telecommunications officials under Rajas directions. However, Raja had all along a line of defencethat hes done nothing wrong and purely gone by the recommendations of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and kept the Prime Minister and finance minister in the loop. Whatever be the merits in those arguments, in our democratic structure the courts are the final arbiter and the verdict is out.

The observations by the Delhi High Court are not the first. The single bench of the court had last year in July already struck the arbitrary advancement of the cut-off date to grant new telecom licences, which denied the same to many, including the global telecom major AT&T, but helped real estate companies like Unitech and DB group with no prior experience to get licences, as illegal. The DoT had appealed against that judgment to a division bench headed by the Chief Justice AP Shah and found no relief. That surely says something significant. For arguments sake, DoT may say that it would appeal in the Supreme Court. If the apex court upholds the High Court judgment, what should Raja do Stay on, still

The government should now get into the act of clearing up the mess and this calls for hard steps. It is a well-known fact now that there was not enough spectrum to accommodate a large number of operators, yet DoT tweaked Trai recommendations in a way to grant licences to a few favoured firms, lied in the court that the balance applications have not been rejected but are on a waitlist, then on the sly asked the Trai once again to review whether more licences should be given since theres spectrum crunch.

The sequence of events coupled with the HC judgment clearly establishes something was seriously wrong. Now DoT has no option but to give licences to the balance 343 applications of 16 companies. Does it have the spectrum The time to answer tough questions and take tougher decisions has come now.

anandita.mankotia@expressindia.com