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

TELECOM ON THE MEND Dis­missal of plea against Jio por­tends tar­iff wars in the sec­tor; iPhone SE’s fail­ure shows Ap­ple will have to re­work its strat­egy

The Economic Times - - Companies - Sa­man­waya.Rau­tray @times­group.com

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.

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