The government's limited review petition on its right to allocate natural resources through means other than auctions comes up for hearing on April 13 while a clarificatory petition stating it would take 400 days, not four months for fresh auctions will be heard later.
Official sources said that since review petitions filed by seven affected companies were dismissed by the SC last week, their licences will be cancelled as per court's February 2 verdict, which gave four months' time to these firms. This assumes significance since so far, it was held that the government's clarificatory petition has also sought that the companies be allowed to carry on their services till fresh auctions are held.
We have nowhere sought any extension for the deadline for cancelling licences. We have only sought limited review and clarification on certain policy-related issues. The review of cancellation was sought by the companies which has been dismissed. We will cancel their licences on June 2 when the four-month deadline expires. However, if in the course of hearing, the court suo motu provides any extension, then it is another matter, the official said.
The worst affected by this would be Norway's Telenor, which has a controlling stake in Uninor with operations in 13 circles and Russia's Sistema, which has majority stake in Sistema Shyam. Of the nearly 72 million subscribers, the 122 licensees have the two operators contributing the bulk of it at around 40 million and 15 million respectively. Both of them had filed review petitions in the SC and have served notices on the government under the bilateral investment treaty agreements.
Three operators STel, Etisalat DB and Loop Mobile have announced closure of their businesses and advised their meagre subscribers to switch to other operators. Two operators Tata Teleservices and Idea Cellular have lost three and nine licences respectively but they don't contribute much to either revenue or subscriber base.
Uninor and Sistema Shyam have been urging that their licences should be valid till the government conducts fresh auctions. This way, they would not lose their existing subscribers. However, with the latest clarification, they have no option but to wait for fresh auctions and lose their licences on June 2.