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SC pulls up Centre for being 'casual' in 2G case

Monday, 19 November 2012 - 3:04pm IST Updated: Monday, 19 November 2012 - 6:33pm IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: PTI

The Supreme Court refused to take on record Centre's affidavit filed by an under secretary-level officer.

Ticking off the government for being "very casual" in handling the 2G case, the Supreme Court on Monday said withholding of even 0.1 per cent of spectrum, licences for which were cancelled, will not be acceptable.

A bench of Justice GS Singhvi and Justice KS Radhakrishanan also directed the Centre to file a fresh affidavit within two days explaining why all the second-generation (2G) mobile telephony spectrum was not put on auction on November 12.

"The government is very casual in dealing with the matter," the bench said while turning down an affidavit filed by an under secretary-level officer on the matter and directed that it must be filed by secretary of Department of Telecom.

"This affidavit cannot be accepted. It has been filed by under secretary officer. Our earlier order clearly said that affidavit must be filed by secretary-level officer. This is a deliberate action on the part of DoT," the bench said.

"On earlier occasion the court had unequivocally rejected affidavit filed by an under secretary. It is unfortunate that the same mistake has been done again. Needful should be done within two days," it said.

The court said that it would hear Centre's stand on auction on Monday but made it clear that withholding of spectrum from being auctioned would not be acceptable.

"Keep in mind that withholding of spectrum, even 0.1% would not be acceptable," the bench said adding that it was never told earlier that the entire 2G spectrum would not be put on auction.

"At no point of time this court was informed that the auction was only for 800 and 1800 MHz band," the bench observed.

It was contended before the court that government has not complied with the apex court's direction and it has withheld 136 MHz spectrum out of 431 MHz in 1800 band.

The apex court had on February 2 cancelled 122 licences for 2G spectrum and directed the government to allocate the natural resource by auction.

The government had received on November 12 bids worth Rs9,224.75 crore on the opening day of auction for 2G mobile phone spectrum that drew scant interest due to high base price. The government was hoping to net a minimum revenue of Rs28,000 crore in the auction.

There was no bidder for pan-India airwaves for which the government had set a base or bid start price of Rs14,000 crore. Demand was concentrated in select circles like Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh (East) and Uttar Pradesh (West).

The government contended that withholding of spectrum was done on the recommendation of the TRAI.

Earlier, on the last hearing, the bench had pulled up the government for not putting on auction the entire 2G spectrum and had said the Centre was "playing" with its order.

At the end of today's proceedings, the petitioners advocate alleged that the government through its ministers and officers were making objectionable remarks against the Supreme Court for cancelling 2G spectrum licences in February this year after the recent not so successful auction of spectrum.

They pleaded the government should be asked not to pass remarks on the constitution body but the bench did not say anything.

They also submitted that the government intentionally tried to make the recent auction process flop by putting various clauses in the bidding process.

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