Supreme Court allows Centre to go ahead with spectrum auction

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The Supreme Court allowed the Centre to go ahead with the auction of spectrum, slated for Monday.

In a special hearing, the top court rejected any interim relief to telecom companies who sought a stay on the auction. The top court, however, admitted the plea of the companies challenging the auction, which is likely to raise Rs. 49,000 crore for the government.

Telecom operators Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Loop and Idea had approached the Supreme Court seeking stay of spectrum auction and extension of their licenses by 10 more years.

Senior lawyers Mukul Rohatgi and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing on behalf of the telecom companies, wanted a stay on tomorrow’s auction. However, additional solicitor general KV Viswanathan, appearing for the Department of Telecommunications, opposed it and wanted the auction to be held on Monday.

The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal or TDSAT dismissed the operators’ pleas on Friday and denied extension of their licenses saying the telecom operators had been holding, for years, spectrum in excess of the contracted quantum. Further, they held on to licenses in the most premium band on rates fixed in 2001.

The licences of Vodafone and Bharti Airtel expire in November this year on completion of the 20-year period as per license conditions.

Idea’s seven licences would expire in December 2015. Loop, which operates in the Mumbai circle, has not participated in the auction process as it was waiting for the outcome of this petition.

However, Vodafone and Bharti Airtel are participating in the auction and have been short-listed as eligible bidders.