SC extends time for fresh 2G auction till next January

2G Auction
The Supreme Court on Monday directed the government to complete fresh auction of cancelled 122 2G spectrum licences by January 11, 2013 and warned that failure to meet the deadline would invite "contempt" action against erring officials with "exemplary" cost.

A Bench of Justices G S Singhvi and K S Radhakrishnan, which extended the August 31, 2012 deadline for completing the auction process, made it clear that no court in the country will entertain any plea on this issue of 2G spectrum.

It said existing licences of the 2G spectrum, who had to shut down the operation by September 7, are "entitled to operate upto January 18 next year".

The Bench, which expressed its displeasure against the Centre for not mentioning the "outer limit" for completing the auction process, said "unless it will fix the outer limit the auction process will never happen" and "it is also the fact of the matter that they (Centre) have not complied with the February 2 judgement".

The judges, who were unhappy with the affidavit filed by the Telecom Secretary R Chandrashekhar, for not mentioning the outer limit for the fresh auction of 2G spectrum, said "the process cannot go for indefinite period".

They said without fixing the outer limit, it was not possible to extend the deadline as the "existing operators will make effort to scuttle the auction and delay the process".

The Bench, which made it clear that no more extension would be granted for the purpose, said it will peruse the development on January 13 "to know whether the Centre has proceeded with auction or not and to go for the future course on the allocation of 2G spectrum".

The Bench said, "In the facts and circumstances of the case, we accept the prayer made in the Centre's application to the extent of allowing time to the applicant (Centre) till January 11, 2013."

It said the bidding process, which will commence on November 12, should be completed within 60 days.

It also made it clear that if the Telecom Ministry fails to comply with its direction to start the auction process, the petitioners, the NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation and Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy would be at liberty "to bring it to the notice of the court".

"In case, the appellant (Centre) failed to do auction process by January 11, 2013, the court will be constrained to begin suo motu contempt proceeding against the erring officials and the court may also impose exemplary cost in the event of failure to complete the process," the Bench said.

It also said, "We make it clear that no court in the country will entertain any suit, petition or applications involving auction pursuant to the direction given by this court."

The Bench said on January 13 it will know who are the successful bidders and accordingly decide the future course about the issuance of letter of intents and allocation of licences for the 2G spectrum which were cancelled by the February 2 judgement.

The Supreme Court had on August 24 said it will consider extending the August 31 deadline for completing fresh auctioning of 2G spectrum licences only if the Centre gave an undertaking to implement its verdict and meet the time frame set by the Telecom Ministry.

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