SC reserves verdict on PIL against 4G licences to Reliance

By: | Published: January 12, 2016 9:27 PM

The Supreme Court today reserved its verdict on a PIL by an NGO challenging the grant of 4G licences to Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (RJIL), with the Centre refuting the allegation of any wrongdoing.

RELIANCE JIOThe Supreme Court today reserved its verdict on a PIL by an NGO challenging the grant of 4G licences to Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (RJIL), with the Centre refuting the allegation of any wrongdoing. (PTI)

The Supreme Court today reserved its verdict on a PIL by an NGO challenging the grant of 4G licences to Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (RJIL), with the Centre refuting the allegation of any wrongdoing.

A bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur, during the day-long hearing, posed several questions to both the Centre and the NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), on the issue of spectrum usage charge and migration policy.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for CPIL, submitted that the PIL was based on the draft CAG report which had established that the spectrum for broadband wireless system was only for data and not for voice mail.

Further, he alleged that spectrum bid was a ‘benami’ bid submitted by company named Infotel, which was acquired by Reliance group hours after it had won the 20 MHZ spectrum.

Infotel had submitted a bid of Rs 12,000 crore and the company was transfered to Reliance on the day of the bidding, he claimed.

However, senior advocate Harish Salve, appearing for Reliance, submitted that the draft CAG report was not correct as somebody had planted information to the CAG.

Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar said there was a policy for migration which was permissible and independent of spectrum, adding that licence was separate from spectrum.

When the bench, also comprising Justices A K Sikri and R Banumathi, told the Solicitor General that the NGO has challenged the March 2012 decision of the Centre allowing the migration, he said it was according to the policy decision.

Salve also said the policy was not under challenge and it was only the decision to allow Reliance to migrate that was.

When the bench wanted to know where was the decision to migrate, it was told that such a decision was in the official file.

“We would like to see what is the decision and how the decision is illegal,” the bench said and asked the Centre to file written submission on the entire issue.

Bhushan claimed that while Reliance was paying a spectrum usage charge of one per cent, the other companies were charged higher upto five per cent. The government said the original contract was for “Internet Service Provider” and Reliance Jio in 2013 migrated to “Unified Licence Regime” which included voice telephony.

The government said this migration was allowed as per the National Telecom Policy of 2012 for which Reliance Jio had paid Rs 1658 crore.

The apex court had earlier issued notice to the Centre, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and RJIL on the petition of CPIL challenging the government’s decision to allow Mukesh Ambani’s company to offer voice services on its 4G spectrum.

The PIL, filed through Bhushan, had also sought quashing of the permission granted by the government to Reliance for providing voice telephony on Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) spectrum and pitched for a court-monitored CBI investigation in the alleged Rs 40,000 crore scam.

The petition has said that the Centre’s decision to allow voice telephony has given undue benefit of about Rs 22,842 crore to RJIL and corresponding loss to the Government and “is therefore arbitrary, unreasonable and discriminatory”.

It had also alleged that the company was allowed “backdoor entry” into voice telephony using BWA spectrum by paying entry fee of meagre amount of Rs 1,658 crore determined way back in 2001, a figure which has been rejected by the apex court in its February 2, 2012 judgement in 2G spectrum allocation scam case.

It had sought court’s direction to quash the March 2013 decision of the Centre, through Ministry of Communication and IT, under which it had allowed RJIL to provide voice telephonic services.

The petition had claimed that the decision not to increase the Spectrum Usage Charges to the same level as is being paid by the other operators who provide voice telephony under Unified Access Services licence, was discriminatory.

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