Supreme Court has rejected a petition filed by Vodafone India and Bharti Airtel Ltd to stay an auction of spectrum. Vodafone India filed the petition for its six telecom circles and Airtel had petition for its five circles. A bench of justices Anil R. Dave and S. K. Singh said that these issues would now be taken up with similar cases pending before the apex court.
It argued that the 2012 National Telecom Policy could not apply to existing licences, and would only apply to future licences. Interestingly, few days ago, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had requested the Supreme Court to dismiss with costs Vodafone India’s petition for extension of licences in six circles by another 10 years.
Vodafone India’s 20 year licences in these circles, including Guj, M.H, Haryana and U.P (East) expired in Dec 2015. The service provider has requested the Supreme Court for extension by another 10 years. The spectrum auction for telecom services is expected to start from February 23, this year. Vodafone had earlier approached DoT for an extension of these licences for a period of 10 years but this was declined. Vodafone has approached the court seeking interim relief against DoT’s decision.
A government press note of 2010 says it had a right to an extension of 10 years as per its contract. Bharti Airtel had a similar plea, basing it on its investment of Rs.25,500 crore and a 214 million subscriber base. It submitted that it should have the right to the spectrum it already owned if it agreed to pay the auction-discovered price. The next round of auctions for spectrum held by mobile operators – Airtel, Vodafone, Idea and Reliance Communication are due in February as some of their licences are set to expire in 2015-16.