S Tel free to withdraw case against DoT: Supreme Court

S Tel free to withdraw case against DoT: Supreme Court
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First Published: Wed, Mar 10 2010. 09 26 PM IST

 Photo: Rajkumar / Mint
Photo: Rajkumar / Mint
Updated: Wed, Mar 10 2010. 09 26 PM IST
New Delhi: In what could end S Tel Pvt. Ltd’s legal challenge to the department of telecommunication (DoT) over the allocation of 2G spectrum, the Supreme Court has asked the telecom firm to file an affidavit to withdraw its case if it wanted to.
Photo: Rajkumar / Mint
Withdrawing the case would nullify a Delhi high court ruling that had struck down DoT’s decision to advance the last date for new telecom operators to apply for 2G spectrum. DoT’s decision had resulted in firms like S Tel not being able to apply for licences in all the 16 telecom service areas available then.
A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, comprising justices B. Sudershan Reddy and Surinder Singh Nijjar, on Wednesday made the offer of withdrawal after attorney general of India G.E. Vahanvati highlighted a letter by S Tel to DoT saying it may not require licences in the remaining 16 areas.
In the letter, S Tel had said it was revisiting its strategy for licences in the remaining 16 areas due to a combination of factors such as the emergence of several new players, competition, the fact that several existing players have not been allotted airwaves, and the evolution of new technologies such as 3G and 4G radio spectrum.
A lawyer for S Tel said the firm would file an affidavit by Friday to clarify its stand. He declined to be named.
S Tel declined to comment for this story.
A regulatory expert, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said DoT was not obliged to alter its plans.
S Tel had initially approached the Delhi high court challenging DoT’s decision to advance the cut-off date for applying for new licences in 2007 from 1 October to 25 September. DoT had notified the change in a press statement.
DoT’s move had left more than 20 applicants including S Tel, AT&T and the Hinduja group, who had applied for more than 110 licences, hanging in the balance as they had applied after 25 September.
In November, the Delhi high court upheld an earlier decision by its single bench to quash DoT’s move to advance the cut-off date.
“The appellant (DoT) has been unable to show that its decision to revise the cut-off date after receiving the application of the respondent (S Tel) was based on some rational criteria. It is vulnerable to being labelled arbitrary and irrational,” the court had said.
DoT filed an appeal in the Supreme Court against the high court’s ruling.
manish.r@livemint.com
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First Published: Wed, Mar 10 2010. 09 26 PM IST