The Telegraph
Tuesday , January 15 , 2013
Since 1st March, 1999
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SC reprieve for mobile licence losers

New Delhi, Jan. 14: The Supreme Court today allowed telecom companies whose licences were cancelled in February last year to continue operations till February 4. The move will provide some relief to operators such as Sistema-Shyam, Uninor, Idea Cellular and Tata Teleservices.

A bench of justices G.S. Singhvi and K.S. Radhakrishnan passed the order on a department of telecom (DoT) application that sought an extension of the licences till the auction scheduled for March was over. The apex court will now hear the DoT’s plea on February 4.

The court today also sought information from the government on the reserve price of spectrum for the upcoming auction on March 11 as well as the list of companies which did not participate in the November sale.

The order will enable Sistema-Shyam to provide pan-India CDMA services till February 4. Firms such as Tata Teleservices, Uninor and Videocon can continue operations in circles where they failed to win spectrum in the November auctions. Uninor is planning to participate in the 2G auctions in March for the Mumbai circle.

The government, while seeking an extension of the mobile permits, had contended that the move would not only ensure continuity of services to consumers but also generate more interest in the upcoming auctions.

This is the third time the apex court has extended the deadline.

After the Supreme Court cancelled 122 telecom licences in February 2012, it allowed the affected firms to operate till June 2012. The telecom department then sought additional time to conduct the auctions and the deadline was extended to August 2012. The court also allowed firms that had lost their licences to continue operations till September 7, which was then extended to January 18 this year.

On November 27, the court had said all operators that continued services beyond four months after the licences were cancelled would have to pay an additional sum, but did not specify the amount.