Welcoming the Supreme Court's decision on 122 telecom licences, the Government on Thursday said this would clear the way for larger investments in the sector. It also said that the apex court's decision had not indicted the UPA Government.

At a press conference, the Telecom Minister, Mr Kapil Sibal, said, “It (the judgment) will bring clarity and sanctity in the telecom policy.” He said the Government would come out with an exit policy in the next 10 days after the regulator, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), makes its recommendations in this regard, he added.

“There is no indictment of the Prime Minister or the then Finance Minister (Mr P Chidambaram) in the Supreme Court's judgment. If there is any indictment, it is of the 2003 policy (first-come, first-serve or FCFS) of the NDA Government. We only followed it,” he said.

Quoting the judgment, he termed the FCFS policy as discriminatory. It was formulated by the BJP-led NDA Government. The BJP must, therefore, apologise to the nation for causing a huge loss to the Government.

Asked about the judgement's implications on companies such as Telenor of Norway and Sistema of Russia, which had pumped in huge money to roll out services, Mr Sibal said any aggrieved corporate can approach the court for relief.

The Minister sought to shift the blame of “irregularities” on the then Telecom Minister, Mr A. Raja.

“The Supreme Court has clearly said that the then Minister did not heed the good advice of both the Prime Minister and the Finance Ministry,” he said. He said there was a problem in implementation of the policy and “that is why Mr Raja is where he is.”

Asked if Mr Chidambaram could be guilty of omission by not preventing the scam, Mr Sibal said how could he be blamed, as there was no time for him to know that some wrong was being committed.

He admitted that the FCFS policy in sectors such as mining could be impacted. However, he ruled out the possibility of the Government pre-empting a revision of the policy in other sectors. “Why should we pre-empt? There are statutes in other sectors. Let the Supreme Court strike it down,” he said.

Sticking to his ‘zero loss' theory, the Minister said there was no question of loss if the policy (FCFS) is right, and if the policy is faulty, then you will have to calculate losses from October 2003, when it was implemented.”

Asked what lessons the Government has learnt from the judgment, Mr Sibal said, “Ministers must consult everybody and not commit any irregularity.”

shishir.s@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on February 2, 2012)
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