2G scam: Supreme Court cancels Raja's licences, refers Chidambaram role to trial court

Chidambaram

In a huge blow to the country's telecom sector, which has spawned India's biggest scandal, the Supreme Court on Thursday quashed the 122 licences granted by former telecom minister A Raja, holding that the scandal-tainted 2008 sale was conducted in ''totally arbitrary and unconstitutional'' manner.

The apex court, however, granted relief to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram by directing the trial court to examine his alleged role in the grant of spectrum. The apex court refused to direct the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe Chidambaram's decision, saying the CBI trial court was competent enough in deciding the matter.

Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy, who had brought the matter before the apex court, has also filed his petition on Chidambaram in the trial court. The apex court asked the trial court to decide the matter within two weeks.

The bench of Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly cancelled the 122 licences stating they were granted in an ''arbitrary and unconstitutional'' manner. Licences held by five companies including the local joint ventures of Norway's Telenor and Abu Dhabi's Etisalat were cancelled in the verdict, calling into question the government's telecom decisions three years ago.

Imposing a fine of Rs 5 crore each on three telecom companies, which offloaded their shares after getting the licences, the court said this judgement was for the accountability of the corporate citizen, those who enjoy the fruits of the government's decisions.

The Supreme Court ruling said the current licences will remain in place for four months, in which time the government should decide fresh norms for issuing licences.

The court asked telecom regulatory authority TRAI to make these fresh recommendations. The bench said the allocation of spectrum should be done through auction within four months.

The licences granted by Raja in January 2008 during the tenure of the UPA-I government were for over Rs 9,000 crore. 3G auctions for a smaller number of licences had fetched the government a sum of Rs 69,000 crores.

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