SC seeks clarity over new auction timeline

In what might send the Centre's resolve for another round of auction for unsold 2G spectrum before March 2013 back to the drawing board, the Supreme Court on Tuesday sought a clarity over the proposed time frame to have another auction while observing that it might have "its own complications".

"You (Centre's counsel) please ascertain if the second round of auction for remaining spectrum is scheduled in March. Your affidavit has not specified any particular time for this. We must tell you that it may also lead to some complications," observed a Bench of Justices G S Singhvi and K S Radhakrishnan while adjourning the matter for December 5.

Senior advocate PP Rao, who appeared for the Centre, submitted that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) affidavit had disclosed about their plan to put up leftover spectrum for auction in future as per their policy decisions.

While the court did not elaborate the "complications" that could arise if the government decided to hold another auction before March 2013, it asked Rao to revert with a definite time-frame, if any, decided upon for the second round of auction.

During the proceeding, the apex court also said that the telecom operators, whose licences were cancelled by it but they were allowed to operate due to delay in holding fresh auction should now pay for using the radiowaves on the basis of current price.

"Those licensees which were operating because of delay in auction should now pay after you (Centre) have fixed the prices. They could not have operated if auction would have happened. We would ask the operators to pay for using spectrum for four months. By virtue of fact that the government was unable to hold auction as per the direction, the operators were allowed to continue with the operation and they should pay at the price fixed now," remarked the Bench while requesting Rao to look into this aspect too.

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