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The Supreme Court Wednesday asked why the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) was silent for two years on 85 ineligible firms bagging 2G spectrum and the remaining companies that got the airwaves failing to rollout services in varying degrees.

“Apart from the issues being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) why was regulator (TRAI) silent for two years,” asked the apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice Ashok Kumar Ganguly.The court’s observations came in the wake of submission by Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium that it needed to be looked into if the failure to discharge rollout obligations by the telecom operators holding 2G spectrum was on account of genuine or logistic difficulties.

The Solicitor General said the extent of the compliance of the rollout obligations by telecom operators needed to be looked into for proceeding against them.The Solicitor General said this in the course of the hearing of a petition by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) seeking apex court monitoring of the CBI investigations into 2G spectrum scam.

The court also noted that spectrum was in scarcity was known even on September 24, 2007, then why was the date extended to October 1, 2007. The court further queried “Even the regulator knew about the physical limitation of spectrum, yet it recommended no cap policy”.The court observed that the knowledge that the availability of spectrum was limited yet DoT went for unlimited application was irreconcilable.

At another point the court asked the Solicitor General Subramanium “would you not call it arbitrary action on the part of the government giving 45 minutes time to collect the letter of intent (LoI) and comply with its conditionalities?”

The court further asked “Do you consider this a responsible functioning of the government or government department?” The court said that it would lead to a chaos in the bar if courts start delivering verdicts on 45 minutes notice.

At this the Solicitor General said that procedure for giving letters of intent and completing its formalities could have been more transparent.

The Solicitor General Subramanium reiterated the federal government’s stated position that individual failings in the 2G spectrum scam could not be excluded. The hearing would continue on Thursday.

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