New Delhi: A five-judge-Supreme Court bench headed by chief justice S.H. Kapadia that is hearing a presidential reference on the 2 February apex court verdict cancelling 122 telecom licences has set a 10 July date to start hearing the case.
The court has also issued notices to all the petitioners and states connected with the case as well as the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Confederation of Indian Industry.
The presidential reference was moved by the government after the Supreme Court ruling that cancelled telecom licences allocated to nine firms in January 2008. The 2 February ruling had also said that spectrum, the airwaves needed for mobile phone communications, is a natural resource and should only be allocated by auction.
The reference was moved by the government in a bid to get clarity on a number of issues that arose out of the Supreme Court verdict.
These included the allotment of telecom licences between 1994 and 2007 on the basis of the same policy that the court called “fundamentally flawed” when it cancelled the 122 licences. The reference is also seeking clarification on the court’s ruling that all natural resources, including mines, need to be auctioned.
The government had also filed a review petition after the Supreme Court verdict that dealt primarily with the question of the court’s jurisdiction and whether it stepped into the executive’s domain. The government withdrew the review petition on Tuesday saying that it had very little to do with telecom.
The presidential reference asks several questions of law and facts, including the potential implications for all other natural resources and allocations based on the first-come, first-served method, in the telecom sector and elsewhere.
The reference is a formal constitutional advice being sought by the government before it moves ahead with any policy and legal decisions based on the court’s judgement.
The reference has sought the court’s opinion on the legality of dual-spectrum licences allotted to Reliance Communications Ltd and Tata Teleservices Ltd in 2007 that enabled the telcos, which offered services on the CDMA technology standard, to also do so on the dominant GSM one.
The reference has also sought the court’s opinion on the treatment of 3G spectrum won by telcos that stand to lose their licences because of the court’s verdict