SC criticises ‘casual’ govt approach to 2G auction
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The Supreme Court on Monday criticised the Centre's decision of not putting on auction the entire 2G spectrum cancelled by its February verdict, accusing it of adopting a "casual" approach on the matter. "Withholding of even 0.1 per cent of spectrum will not be acceptable", the court made it clear.
A Bench of Justices G S Singhvi and K S Radhakrishnan also refused to take on record an affidavit filed by a lower-ranking official.
"This affidavit cannot be accepted. Under-secretary of the government is not authorised to swear such affidavits since only an officer of secretary-level rank and above can take decisions in such matters. This is a deliberate attempt by the Department of Telecom since we have already rejected such affidavits in the past. This case is very serious and while the court is taking this matter with seriousness, such affidavits are being filed," remarked the Bench, giving the Centre two days to file a fresh affidavit explaining why all the 2G spectrum was not put on auction.
The Bench also questioned why several aspects relating to the government's decisions on keeping certain frequency bands reserved, non-availability of a frequency band etc had not been brought to its knowledge even though it was constantly monitoring the case.
The court was apprised that while 900 MHz-telecom spectrum was not available for auction, the entire block of 1800 MHz spectrum cancelled by the court earlier was not auctioned either, on the basis of a TRAI recommendation. It was contended that the government withheld more than 30 per cent of the available spectrum in 1800-MHz category since it auctioned only 136 MHz out of total 431 MHz.
"At no point of time the court was informed that auction was going to be only for 800 and 1800 MHz spectrum... government is very casual in dealing with this matter... We will have to consider withholding of spectrum and other related issues, especially in the light of the averment that even the entire 1800 MHz spectrum was not auctioned. We will say that withholding of even 0.1 per cent of spectrum will not be acceptable. They were required to auction the entire spectrum," said the Bench.