On the first anniversary of A Raja going to jail, the Supreme Court today quashed all 122 2G spectrum licenses granted by the former telecoms minister in 2008, although the apex court passed to the trial courts the decision on union home minister P Chidambaram involvement.
[Update: The 94-page 2G judgment is now available – click here. (via @courtwitness1).]
The Supreme Court has directed the telecom regulatory authority of India (TRAI) to make fresh recommendations on the grant of 2G licenses to 11 companies, reported Mint.
“Licenses after January 2008 are quashed,” Justice G.S. Singhvi said. “The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) will make fresh allocations by auction.”
The trial court is expected to pass its judgment on Chidambaram on Saturday, reported Mint.
A bench comprising justices G. S. Singhvi and AK Ganguly (in his final sitting as a judge of the court) directed that the status quo on the licenses would continue for another 4 months.
In the meantime, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) would decide the method of reaction, the auctioning price and the manner of transfer of assets from the existing license holders to the new companies, according to Mint.
Firstpost added that Unitech, S-TEL and Swan were also ordered to pay penalties of Rs 5 crore, while Loop, S-Tel, Allianz and Sistema Shyam were directed to pay Rs 50 lakh for violating norms. The website added:
Among the telecom firms 11 companies have been severely affected. Nine licences of Idea, three of Tata Tele, 21 licenses of Videocon, 22 of Uninor, 13 of Swap and 21 of Loop have been cancelled. However, despite the cancellations, there may not be a huge disruption in telecom services as the number of licences granted post 2008 make up only 5 percent of the active subscriber base in India.
13:25 Medianama comments on the implications from a media industry perspective:
Incumbent players will benefit most, but those incumbents whose licenses have been cancelled will most likely pay more and retain their stake. Tata Teleservices (specifically Tata Docomo) and Idea Cellular are likely to participate in the auctions or repurchase to retain their licenses. Remember that Tata Teleservices put most of its eggs in the GSM basket (Tata Docomo) and scaled down their CDMA operations. The companies that benefit most from this judgement are Bharti Airtel and Vodafone India – the judgement doesn’t impact them, but will most likely lead to a reduction in competition.
18:12 As courtwitness points out, NDTV strangely had a copy of the judgment up on document sharing site Scribd at 16:14, apparently before it even went up on the SC website. NDTV’s copy is also watermarked, it seems. Any ideas?