SC gives govt till Jan 11 to complete 2G auction

Written by Indu Bhan | Indu Bhan | New Delhi | Updated: Aug 28 2012, 05:41am hrs
The Supreme Court on Monday allowed the government to complete the 2G spectrum auction by January 11, but warned that failure to adhere to the deadline this time would mean contempt of court, inviting action against the erring officials with exemplary cost.

Accordingly, the 122 licences that were scheduled to get cancelled on September 7 would now remain valid till January 18.

This is the second extension sought by the government and allowed by the apex court. The court allowed it after telecom secretary R Chandrasekhar gave an undertaking that the auctions would be completed on time. However, the Bench of Justices GS Singhvi and KS Radhakrishnan expressed displeasure at the government for not mentioning the outer limit for completion of the exercise in the affidavit filed by Chandrasekhar.

The court said that unless it will fix the outer limit, the auction process will never happen. The process cannot go for (an) indefinite period... it is also the fact of the matter that they (Centre) have not complied with the February 2 judgment... without fixing the outer limit it is not possible to extend the deadline as the existing operators will make effort to scuttle the auction or delay the process.

Stating that the bidding process, which will commence on November 12, should be completed within 60 days, the court made it clear that if the telecom ministry failed to comply with its direction to commence the auction process, petitioners Centre for Public Interest Litigation, an NGO, and Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy would be at liberty to bring it to the notice of the court. The Bench also observed that a presidential reference doesn't have the effect of undoing any judgment. The government is bound to implement the judgment, that cancelled 122 licences and directed fresh auctioning by June 2.

While making it clear that no court in the country will entertain any plea on this issue, the Bench posted the matter for further hearing on January 13 to know whether the Centre has proceeded with auction or not and who are the successful bidders. The fresh affidavit filed by the telecom secretary said the February 2 judgment for allocation of 2G spectrum would be firmly followed and the preparation for the auction was in full swing and almost in the final stages.

He also clarified that the presidential reference seeking clarification on the 2G judgment has no connection with the government's resolve to implement the judgment.

On its part, the government said that now telecom operators will get get adequate time to prepare for bidding. "We believe this schedule strikes the best balance between the need for speedy conduct of the auction and the need for leaving adequate time for participants to bid in the auction because they need to organise finances," said Chandrasekhar.