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Raj Kumar Makkad (Adv P & H High Court Chandigarh)     14 March 2012

Supreme court notice to recover charges on excess spectrum

The Supreme Court Monday issued notice to the central government on a plea seeking the transfer of a petition from the Delhi High Court to the apex court for making service providers pay for the excess spectrum allocated to them.


A bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya issued the notice – also to seven service providers – returnable in four weeks, after petitioner Telecom Watchdog, an NGO, told the court that it was already seized of a similar plea in Yakash Anand vs Union of India and others.


The transfer petition said that the NGO had moved the high court in 2008 and the plea was pending there as “regular matter”. It pleaded for the transfer of its petition to the apex court as the top court too was hearing a plea addressing exactly the same issue.


The Telecom Watchdog had moved the high court contending that as per licence conditions, the DoT could have allocated a maximum of 4.5/4.4/6.2 MHz spectrum to telecom operators but the telecom department allocated spectrum in excess of their entitlement and that too without charging any additional licence fee.

The charges on the excess spectrum, the petition said, were not recovered by the DoT despite the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in 2007, 2010 and 2011 recommending the department charge for any extra spectrum allocated to service providers.

The petition said that the TRAI had said that even after paying for the excess spectrum, the telecom operators could not retain more than 8 MHz in all circles and 10 MHz in Delhi and Mumbai.


Based on the price recommended by the TRAI, the Comptroller and Auditor General, in its November 2010 report, had worked out a loss of Rs.36,993 crore to public exchequer on account of free allocation of spectrum beyond the contractual limits.


The petition said that the recovery from private telecom companies was pending ever since TRAI raised the issue in 2007. Nothing material has been done except setting up committees after committees, the petition said.


The petition said that spectrum was a scarce resource and should be allocated through auction and could not be distributed in this manner free of cost.

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