India’s Supreme Court orders return of 122 2G mobile concessions

2 Feb 2012

In the latest development regarding the now-controversial award of 2G licences in 2008, India’s Supreme Court has reportedly ruled that all 122 concessions should be revoked. According to the Financial Times, the apex court said the licences should be cancelled on the grounds that their allocation had been ‘totally arbitrary and unconstitutional’. It is understood that, in reaching their decision, the presiding judges concluded that the policy governing the award of the concessions was faulty. The court has now called on the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to begin preparations for a new sale of 2G licences within four months.

Commenting on the ruling, Subramanian Swamy, head of Janata Party, and one of the petitioners in the case heard before the Supreme Court, noted: ‘This is a major step forward for us in the war against corruption,’ with the politician adding that the 2G scandal as a whole reflected a ‘collective failure’ on the part of the government.

In the wake of the ruling a number of operators are likely to be affected, including Tata Teleservices (TTSL), Idea Cellular, Loop Telecom, Videocon Telecommunications, Etisalat DB and Uninor. The latter, a subsidiary of Norway’s Telenor Group, reacted swiftly to the news, saying that it was ‘shocked’ by the court’s verdict, and claiming it had been unfairly treated. The BBC meanwhile cited the company as saying: ‘We will study the order in detail and exercise all options available to ensure that Uninor continues to operate in India … We also expect the authorities to ensure that our 36 million customers, 17,500 workforce and 22,000 partners are not unjustly affected.’