New Delhi: Acrimony marked the hearing into the allocation of second-generation (2G) telecom spectrum in the Supreme Court on Thursday as Vodafone Essar in particular criticised arguments made by a lawyer for companies that got frequencies in 2008.
The remarks were provoked by Harish Salve, counsel for Etisalat DB Telecom, Videocon Mobile, Tata Teleservices Ltd and Loop Telecom, saying that if licences given in 2007-08 were cancelled, the same treatment should be meted out to spectrum awarded prior to that.
Vodafone Essar counsel Abhishek Singhvi said “crooked people” and “thieves” had “got together and done something between September (2007) and January (2008),” referring to spectrum allocation during the tenure of former telecom minister A. Raja, currently in custody as the Central Bureau of Investigation pursues the case.
Vodafone Essar and Idea Cellular sought to differentiate themselves from the rest of the service providers in a bid to prevent their licences, spectrum and additional spectrum from being cancelled or revoked and then subsequently auctioned by the government.
Idea took a milder line of argument since the company was allotted licences and spectrum for some circles in 2008. Idea’s lawyer said an artificial scarcity was created in 2007 due to realtors and other companies applying for licences and spectrum.
“People wanted to get licences so that they could trade in it. That’s why property dealers and others applied,” he argued. “A scheme was devised to give persons who had applied later and those who applied in 2006 (Idea) were kept out. Idea should be treated differently. Idea shouldn’t be lumped in that category.”
Vodafone, which will present more substantial arguments on Tuesday, said some telcos were the beneficiaries of Raja’s policies. The company said it was a “victim” of the alleged irregularities and was “wholly with the petitioners” asking for the allotments of 2007-08 to be rejected and the spectrum auctioned.