Indian telecoms regulator the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has submitted a review petition to the Supreme Court regarding the apax court’s decision in early February to cancel 122 wireless licences. The DoT argues that the court’s ruling, which included instructions to re-auction the revoked licences, was beyond the jurisdiction of the court, and may have unforeseen consequences in other sectors dealing with scarce natural resources.
The DoT claimed in its petition that by cancelling a policy formulated by the government, and prescribing a policy to be taken in its place was an ‘exercise which is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts, policy making being the exclusive domain of the executive under the constitution of India.’
The DoT petition goes on to challenge the court’s right to force a change of policy: ‘The … [Supreme Court’s] judgement held that the policy recommended by the TRAI [The Telecoms Regulatory Authority of India] … and adopted by the DoT …was flawed because the Court disagreed with it on merits…is contrary to the principle of separation of powers embodied by the constitution and based … on the fact that the government is composed from and answerable to parliament which is elected by the people.’
The regulator also argued that the court had not considered all relevant legislation, nor earlier decisions made by the courts. The DoT argued that the decision would have an impact on the mining sector, as legislation regarding the management of finite resources such as spectrum and minerals is covered under one law: by overturning wireless licences, certain grants of mining rights would also be deemed illegal.
Uninor and Sistema, two of the cellcos which area due to lose their licence, have also submitted independent review petitions, looking to overturn the ruling.