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Demand to modify the 2G spectrum verdict

In News

  • The Centre moved the Supreme Court seeking modification of its verdict in the 2G spectrum case.

2G spectrum scam

  • The alleged 2G spectrum allocation scam is said to have originated in 2008 when the then Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government sold 122 2G licences on a first-come-first-serve (FCFS) basis to specific telecom operators.
  • In its charge sheet filed in April 2011, the CBI alleged that there was a loss of 30,984 crore to the exchequer as a result of discrepancies in the allocation process.
  • The Centre for Public Interest Litigation and Subramanian Swamy filed petitions in the top Court alleging a 70,000 crore scam in the grant of telecom licences in 2008.

Judgement

  • The Supreme Court cancelled 122 telecom licences in the landmark 2G spectrum scam judgement while cautioning that an FCFS basis for the allocation of scarce natural resources can be prone to misuse.
  • Advocating for competitive auctions instead, the Court said, “In our view, a duly publicised auction conducted fairly and impartially is perhaps the best method for discharging this burden
  • Methods like first-come-first-served, when used for alienation of natural resources/public property, are likely to be misused by unscrupulous people who are only interested in garnering maximum financial benefit and have no respect for the constitutional ethos and values.
  • It emphasised that the burden lies on the State to ensure that the “non-discriminatory method” of the auction is adopted “by giving wide publicity so that all eligible persons can participate in the process”.

Centre’s plea

  • The Union government has moved an application to allocate spectrum administratively, bypassing auctions.
  • An administrative allocation would give the government control over the selection of operators.
  • The assignment of spectrum is required to discharge sovereign and public interest functions such as security, safety, and disaster preparedness.
  • The Centre elaborated that administrative allocation is required when demand is lower than supply or for space communication.
  • In such cases, it would be “more optimal and efficient for spectrum to be shared by multiple players, rather than being broken up into smaller blocks for the sole purpose of exclusive assignment”.