New Delhi, February 17: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the high courts across the country not to rely on the Tripura High Court order to pass orders interfering with the bidding process for the allocation of 2G spectrum for which auction would be held March 4.
Directing hearing, on February 25, of the Central government’s plea challenging the high court’s February 12 order permitting Reliance Telecom Ltd and Bharti Hexaco to make two bids for spectrum for the northeastern states by modifying tender conditions, a bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to place before it any matter relating 2G bidding before the high courts.
The court said that no adjournment will be granted on February 25 as Rohatgi described the high court order as “astounding” and “completely ucceptable”, saying what was at “stake was the revenue of Rs.1 lakh crore and any interference by the court would make people shy away”.
The attorney general told the court that by the high court order, the entire bidding process is set to be put at nought and writ petitions are being filed all over.
“What is good for the northeast is good for the rest of the country,” Rohatgi said pointing to the spate of petitions that would be generated after Tripura High Court order.
Senior counsel P.Chidambram, who appeared for Reliance Telecom, contested the submission by attorney general saying that all that the Tripura High Court had permitted was the filing of two application one online and other offline for 4.4 MHz and other for permitted minimum 5 MHz spectrum in 900 MHz bands.
He told the court that it was an order for making applications and has nothing to do with bidding which would take place on March 4.
Confronting Rohatgi with the views of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Chidambram told the court: “It is not his view, nor my view. Twice TRAI had recommended putting to auction a minimum of 4.4 MHz of spectrum in 900 MHz.”
He noted that the TRAI reiterated its recommendation for the auction of a minimum of 4.4 MHz of spectrum after the government sought the reconsideration of its earlier recommendations.
Chidambram told the court that today there are two operators - Reliance Telecom and Bharti Hexacom - providing services and each having 4.4 MHz of spectrum. He said that if the government continues to insist on allocating a minimum of 5 MHz spectrum to one bidder, then it would mean that the other operator will have to shut down its operations.
He said that besides one of the service providers faced the prospect of shutting down, the balance of 3.8 MHz of spectrum would remain unutilised as it would not be put under hammer in the present round of auctioning. “This is a great disservice to the people of northeast,” he contended.
At this, Justice Misra asked: “How are you concerned (what will happen to 3.8 MHz spectrum). Why you are assuming that somebody will not bid for more spectrum. What right you have to go on with spectrum in 900 MHz band. Can we adjudicate all this?”
In response, Rohatgi said: “According to me no right is vested in them” and “you are not in public interest but in private interest”. As Chidambram said that “we are in public service”, he said: “It is your pocket interest.”
Rohatgi contested Chidambram’s position that if one service provider succeeds in getting 5 MHz of spectrum, then the other will have to shut down its operation in the Northeast.
He said that besides 900 MHz band, Reliance Telecom was also operating in 1800 MHz, 800 MHz and 2100 MHz band and Bharti Hexacom was operating in 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz band. IANS