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Spectrum is a valuable national revenue and cannot be given free, says apex Court

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NEW DELHI: Holding that spectrum is a valuable national resource and not meant for charity, the Supreme Court has asked the government to explain reasons allocating additional spectrum to GSM telecom operators allegedly free of cost.



A bench headed by Justice G S Singhvi said: "Spectrum is taken by the Centre from the army on the name of developing telecom sector and to provide service to the common man."



"The price of spectrum is thousands of crores. It is a national resource and it cannot be alloted free of cost. You must follow due procedure for allocation of natural resources," the bench said.



It also imposed a cost of one lakh rupee each on Centre and seven telecom companies, including Bharti, Vodafone, Reliance and Idea Cellular, for not filing their response during the last one year on a plea challenging allotment of excess spectrum.

"More than a year has passed but you have filed counter. The issues raised in the petition are serious and requires serious consideration," the bench said asking the parties to deposit the money in the Supreme Court Legal Services Authority.



The court was hearing a petition seeking cancellation of 2G spectrum beyond 2x4.5 MHz for metros and 2x4.4 MHz for other circles allocated since 1996 to the telcos without charging additional fee.



The petitioner alleged that while allotting additional spectrum, the Centre ignored its own order of 1 February 2002, which said that "additional allocation could be considered only after a suitable subscriber base, as may be prescribed, is reached."

In another case, the Court rejected several petitions seeking recall of its 11 April 2011 order that barred the Delhi High Court from entertaining any plea against orders of Special CBI court hearing 2G cases.



Pronouncing the judgment, Justice Radhakrishnan said it would be in the larger public interest and in the interest of the accused as well that the trial should proceed unhampered on day-to-day basis.



Rejecting the pleas of Shahid Balwa, Vinod Goenka, Rajiv Agarwal, Asif Balwa and Ravinder Kumar Chandolia, a bench comprising of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan also rejected the plea for framing guidelines on the monitoring of investigations by the apex court. The court said it was only monitoring the investigation being undertaken by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the enforcement directorate and not monitoring the trial in 2G cases.



The apex court by its April 2011 order had said: "We also make it clear that any objection about appointment of Special Public Prosecutor or the Assistant Advocate or any prayer for staying or impeding progress of the trial can only be made before this court and no other court shall entertain the same. The trial must proceed on a day-to-day basis."



The petitioners have sought the recall of the latter part of the order which had said: "...any prayer for staying or impeding progress of the trial can be made only before this court and no other court shall entertain the same. The trial must proceed on a day-to-day basis."



The petitioners had also sought vacation of a 9 December 2012, order by which the apex court had stayed all the proceedings before Delhi High Court arising from the order of the 2G special court. The apex court had reserved its order on 21 August 2013.

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