Airtel, Vodafone, Idea, approaches SC in 2G scam case

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Supreme Court
New Delhi, Mar 1: Leading GSM telecom operators Airtel, Vodafone and Idea along with their association COAI approached the Supreme Court with a plea to be made party in the case relating to 2G spectrum allocation scam which is being probed by the CBI.

Senior Advocate Fali S Nariman, appearing for them, submitted before a bench comprising justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly that they should be heard in the matter as they have challenged the Centre's policy of allocating GSM spectrum to CDMA operators under dual technology to service providers like Reliance Communication and Tata Tele Services.

It was alleged that the two companies were allotted GSM spectrum under the dual technology regime ignoring several applicants who had applied before them for the licence.

"It is in the interest of justice that the applicants be permitted to intervene at the hearing and to make appropriate submission especially the submission that the investigation by the CBI should not in any way be influenced by the TDSAT judgement (allowing the use of dual technology)," the GSM lobby group COAI along with leading operators -- Airtel, Vodafone and Idea -- said in its application.

It is pointed out in the application that GSM telecom operators and Cellulor Operators Association of India should be allowed to present their views before the court as the CBI is also probing into the loss caused to the public exchequer due to the government decision of allowing use of dual technology.

It pleaded that the government decision was illegal, arbitrary and was intended for the benefit of a few telecom companies.

The impleadment application was however opposed by the Reliance Infocom and Tata Teleservices which pleaded that there was no need to implede COAI and other GSM operators.

Earlier, on Feb 15, COAI and the operators had requested the bench of Justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly to hear their case challenging the Dual Technology Spectrum allocation policy of the government by transferring their plea from another bench.

However, it was declined by the bench which asked the GSM lobby group COAI to obtain permission from the Chief Justice of India to transfer their plea from another bench.

COAI''s plea is being heard by a separate bench comprising Justices Altamas Kabir and Cyriac Joseph. However, the lobby group has asked for its petition to be transferred before the bench of Justices G S Singhvi and AK Ganguly.

COAI had approached the Supreme Court in 2009 challenging the judgement of telecom tribunal TDSAT, which upheld DoT's dual technology spectrum allocation policy. It had made DoT, Trai, RCom, Tata Tele, HFCL Infotel Ltd and others as parties to its plea.

The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal, on Mar 31, 2009, upheld DoT's dual spectrum allocation policy allowing Anil Ambani group company RCom and Tata Tele -- who operated CDMA based cellular services - to get GSM spectrum for operating services.

The petition filed by COAI, Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone Essar said TDSAT wrongly upheld DoT''s decision to enhance the criteria for allocation of additional spectrum, besides upholding the dual spectrum allocation policy.

The plea charged that TDSAT failed to appreciate that cellular operators had a vested and accrued right to receive spectrum up to 15 MHz.

COAI said the National Telecom Policy of 1999, which was the basis of a contractual settlement between cellular operators and the DoT, promised optimal and adequate spectrum to every operator and they were to get GSM spectrum up to 15 MHz at specified rates on a revenue-sharing basis.

The DoT, on Oct 18, 2007, amended the telecom rules, allowing CDMA players to enter the GSM mobile space.

TDSAT stated that there was nothing irregular in granting 4.4 MHz as start-up spectrum to RCom and rejected the GSM lobby group's contention that they have the right to hold spectrum up to 15 MHz.

PTI

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