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The Supreme Court Thursday allowed the government to withdraw its petition seeking a review of the Supreme Court verdict cancelling 122 licences that were allocated on and after Jan 10, 2008 by the then telecom minister A. Raja.

The apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan granted withdrawal of the review petition but not before objecting to the contents of the government’s May 8 letter seeking the withdrawal.

The May 8 letter said that it be circulated before the Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia to “constitute the bench at an appropriate date and time to avoid disruption of benches and any inconvenience to the learned judges”.

The court wondered what was the need for the government to write the letter when the matter was to come up for hearing May 10 before the designated bench. It also noted that in the past, similar withdrawal of petition was done by way of oral mentioning before the court.

While rejecting the letter seeking the withdrawal of the review petition, the court permitted the withdrawal on the oral submission by Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising.

The government had sought the review of the Feb 2 apex court order which, while cancelling the 122 telecom licences, said henceforth all the natural resources would be allocated only through auction process.

The government withdrew its petition because of the limited scope of review that the court had agreed to undertake.

The Centre for Public Interest Litigation opposed the withdrawal of review petition alleging that the central government was indulging in forum shopping by way of presidential reference which had the same prayers which were in the review petition.

In pursuance of the court monitoring of the 2G investigation by various agencies, including the Central Bureau of Investigation, the enforcement directorate and the Income Tax department, three reports were presented before it.

One each was filed by the Central Vigilance Commission, another by the enforcement directorate and the Income Tax department.

While fixing the next hearing July 17, the court said that during this period it would go through the reports.

Petitioner Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy wondered if C. Sivasankaran’s move to off load his stakes in telecom firm Aircel to the Malaysia-based Maxis group was on account of coercion or quid pro quo.

It would not have happened if the then Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) which was headed by Home Minister P. Chidambaram, who was then heading the finance ministry, had not cleared the deal.

Swamy sought the court’s permission to file documents in support of his contention.

The Supreme Court in February cancelled 122 spectrum licences allocated during telecom minister Raja’s tenure. It also ruled that all natural resources should be allocated through an auction, which the government is now preparing to do in the case of the cancelled licences.

Apart from 19 individuals, six telecom companies have also been named as accused in the case.

Raja resigned as telecom minister Nov 14, 2010 in the wake of the Comptroller and Auditor General reporting that his 2008 decision to allocate 2G spectrum on a first-come-first-served basis had caused the exchequer a presumptive loss of Rs.1.76 lakh crore. The CBI arrested him Feb 2, 2011.

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