The Supreme Court on Monday extended the deadline for completing the process of fresh auction of 2G spectrum from June 2 to August 31, 2012 giving some relief to the government who had sought 400 days for it.
A bench of Justices G S Singvhi and K S Radhakrishnan also said today that the operators whose licences were cancelled following the apex court’s order can now operate till September 7, 2012.
In March the government had moved the Supreme Court expressing its inability to complete the auction process by June while demanding 400 days.
The Supreme Court on February 2 had cancelled all the 122 spectrum licences allotted in 2008 during the tenure of the former telecom minister A Raja. The allocation of these licences was believed to be rigged. The court in its order had also directed the regulator to start the process of fresh auction within four months.
Attorney General G E Vahanvati told the court that TRAI had only yesterday come out with its recommendations on 2G spectrum prices. "Trai''s recommendations will have an impact on the auction process".
"In our view, it will be just and proper to partially accept the averments made in the application (by the Centre). Accordingly, the time specified for conducting the auction and grant of licences is extended upto August 31, 2012", the court said.
But taking a swipe at the government the bench told Vahanvati if the government officials had made an effort, the situation could have been avoided.
"You ask for 400 days. That is your prayer. How much time did you take to complete the process in 2008?", the court asked.
"The entire exercise could have been avoided if little more effort would have been made," the bench said.
"We are still not in a position to believe that your officers were so naive that they don't understand the difference," the bench said, referring to the calculation made by the Department of Telecom (DoT) in grant of the spectrum for 4.4 MHz and 6.2 MHz.
"We are not going to accept the prayer for 400 days," the bench said, adding, "The government was alive and aware that something wrong has gone and petition was filed in 2010."
The apex court at the same time warned private telcos against filing petitions questioning its February 2 verdict saying it would impose exemplary costs if they continued to do so.