SC Rejects Petition Against Jio ‘Calls’ Says won’t interfere in policy decisions — like govt approval for voice services on 4G spectrum — unless they are found mala fide
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court dismissed a challenge against the 2013 government decision allowing Reliance Jio Infocomm to offer voice services over broadband spectrum that had been awarded in 4G auctions in 2010. The court said it won’t interfere with policy decisions unless these were blatantly mala fide or perverse.
Jio had been allowed to offer voice telephony by paying .₹ 1,658 crore for a pan-India licence. The Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) alleged through lawyer Prashant Bhushan that this was grossly undervalued, resulting in a loss to the exchequer.
The top court lauded the manner in which the Indian telecom sector had evolved, saying it was next only to that of China, while adding that policies needed to keep in step with rapid technological change.
“Technological developments in telecommunication are taking place at abnormal pace,” the court said during the hearing on the public interest liti-
gation (PIL) on Friday. “Various policy decisions taken at one point of time may, therefore, require a re-look, necessitating… changes… and the circumstances may even mandate change of existing policy altogether by substituting with new policy decision depending upon such technological advancements coupled by commercial and economic considerations.”
Some legal analysts said this seemed to mark a change in the court’s stance over the past few years as exemplified by the cancel-
lation of spectrum licences in 2012 and coal block allotments in 2014 because of irregularities.
The bench comprising chief justice TS Thakur, and justices AK Sikri and R Banumathi noted on Friday that the government had decided to permit voice services on 4G spectrum at the recommendation of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
In any case, these were licences awarded in the 2010 auction and that process hadn’t been challenged in court.