Kapil Sibal takes on judges, says let the court allocate spectrum, explain its orders

Feb 26 2013, 10:42 IST
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SummaryThe court seems to have come to the conclusion that auction is the only way to allocate spectrum

On a day when the UPA government’s renewed effort to attract bids from telecom companies for the ensuing auction of 1,800 Mhz and 900 Mhz spectrum drew a blank, Union Minister for Communications and Information Technology Kapil Sibal said that “if the court were to take upon itself the responsibility of allocating spectrum in the public interest, in whichever manner it deems fit, it may serve us better”.

With investor interest in Indian telecom showing no signs of revival, especially after a spate of adverse orders by the apex court affecting telecom companies, Sibal, in an interview to The Indian Express on Monday, said since courts want the government to be transparent while passing orders, it would not be wrong to expect courts to give full reasons for their decisions.

On the apex court’s recent order directing telecom companies which were unsuccessful in the spectrum auction or had not participated in the auction process to stop operations forthwith, the telecom minister said: “I have gone through the February 15 order. I was puzzled because the court, in its order, sets out the history of the matter; then sets out submissions made on behalf of the Union of India, on behalf of the public interest litigant and the respective private parties. And then, in the penultimate paragraph, the court states that it has considered their respective submissions and issues certain directions. There are no reasons given for those directions.”

Elaborating, he added: “Courts expect governments to be fully transparent in their reasoning; every noting in the file must reflect some logical process of decision making. Courts scrutinise government files to discover the basis of decision making. If transparency is expected from government, it must follow that courts should give full reasons for their decisions, including a particular direction when being issued. That is a legitimate expectation. However, we are bound by orders of the Supreme Court and must implement them.”

Stating that “millions of consumers” had lost connections “in this process”, Sibal said: “Whether a particular entity participated in a particular auction or not depends on market forces and its model of doing business in India... If it chooses not to participate, it is free not to. There is no law under which a particular entity must participate in an auction. By not participating, no law is infringed. To ask that entity to close down its business impacts consumers negatively. This should be a

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