Law ministry concerns threaten 3G auction date

1 Feb 2010

In yet another twist to the saga of the sale of 3G spectrum in India, it has been revealed that the country’s Ministry of Law and Justice has suggested that the government could expose itself to potential financial penalties if it auctions spectrum that it does not currently possess. According to the Economic Times, the ministry has claimed that under the existing proposals there is a risk that any operator who successfully bids for spectrum but is not allocated it right away could call for their winning bid, plus interest, to be returned to them. It is believed that, on the back of these latest concerns, the auction process itself could once again be delayed, with reports suggesting that the sale may now not take place until August or September this year. The Ministry of Law and Justice however was quick to point out that no definitive shift in the auction date had taken place, with law minister Veerappa Moily noting: ‘We have referred the file to the finance ministry and we will take a view once they take a firm view on some queries raised by us…no decision had been taken to delay or not delay the [3G auction] process.’ Further, communications minister Andimuthu Raja, said of the latest development: ‘It is between the law and finance ministries. There is no delay on our part. We had already decided on the dates for the auction process and finalised everything beforehand.’ Under the existing proposals, the DoT has planned to auction 3G frequencies on 12 February 2010.