Telcos had argued against the auction, saying that they should be allowed to extend licences under fair terms
The Supreme Court on Friday sought a reply from the Centre on Reliance Telecom’s plea seeking extension of the telecom licence granted to it in seven circles.
A bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar sought response from the telecom department and others on Reliance’s plea and posted the matter for further hearing on Monday. The court had earlier in March reserved orders on similar pleas filed by other telecom service providers like Vodafone India, Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular seeking extensions of their licences in the 900 Mhz band in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata circles are pending before the court. While Vodafone wanted extension of its licences by another 10 years in 6 telecom circles — Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Kerala, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh (east), Bharti had sought such extension in 5 circles. The licences, given by the DoT for a period of 20 years, are due to expire in December 2015.
Challenging the DoT’s decision that rejected its application seeking extension of its licences in Assam, North East, West Bengal, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Himachal Pradesh under Clause 4.1 of the UAS Licence, Relaince stated that it was “legally and contractually” entitled to get extension of its licence as its right is recognised and reinforced by the DoT through National Telecom Policy 1999. “All the contemporary documents established the right of the company for extension of licence. However, the DoT erroneously and arbitrarily rejected its application of the company on the grounds of change of policy. However, NTP-2012 only deals with future licensees,” it said. “The company has a legitimate expectation under the existing contract for extension of its licence and accordingly has made crores on investments which would go waste and unutilised if the company is not granted extension of its licence,” the Reliance stated in its appeal.
Vodafone had challenged the DoT’s order that rejected its request for extension of its licences for six circles and asked the operator to obtain spectrum through auctions. Even Bharti had sought to declare a part of the 2012 policy that applied to the existing licensees as “unconstitutional and void.”
Telecom providers had argued that the department had no legal right to put the allocated spectrum to auction as the service provider is entitled to extension of its licenses along with already allotted spectrum “on fair and reasonable terms” for its continued usage. Besides, the National Telecom Policy-2012 issued by the government delinking spectrum from the licence is applicable only to “new licenses’ and not the “existing licensees,” Vodafone stated, adding “delinking spectrum in respect of present licences is not fair as a licence has now become a piece of paer without spectrum.”