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SC dismisses NGO challenge to Reliance Jio's 4G spectrum usage

08 April 2016

The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a plea by NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) seeking cancellation of Reliance Jio's 4G licence on several grounds, including permission given to the Mukesh Ambani company to offer voice services on its 4G spectrum.

A bench of the Supreme Court comprising Chief Justice TS Thakur, Justice AK Sikri and Justice R Banumathi while dismissing the plea by the NGO left the matter on spectrum user charges to the government.

In its petition, filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, the NGO had alleged that Reliance Jio was given 4G licence for data services and not for voice telephony which it was permitted latter.

The PIL had also sought quashing of the permission granted by the government to Reliance for providing voice telephony on Broadband Wireless Access (BWA) spectrum. CPIL also wanted the Supreme Court to order a court-monitored CBI investigation into an alleged Rs40,000 crore scam.

The petition said that the centre's decision to allow voice telephony has given undue benefit of about Rs22,842 crore to RJIL and corresponding loss to the government and "is therefore arbitrary, unreasonable and discriminatory".

In its ruling, the apex court bench said it found no irregularities in spectrum allocation and turned down the NGO's plea for CBI inquiry.
Regarding the charge of allowing Reliance Jio to offer voice service on 4G spectrum, SC said it is for the government to take a decision.

The Supreme Court had earlier issued notices to the centre, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and RJIL on the petition filed by Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) challenging the government's decision to allow Mukesh Ambani's company to offer voice services on its 4G spectrum.

The NGO in its petition had also alleged that Reliance Jio was allowed "backdoor entry" into voice telephony using BWA spectrum by paying entry fee of meagre amount of Rs1,658 crore determined way back in 2001, a figure which has been rejected by the apex court in its 2 February 2012 judgement in 2G spectrum allocation scam case.

The petition had claimed that the decision not to increase the Spectrum Usage Charges to the same level as is being paid by the other operators who provide voice telephony under Unified Access Services licence, was discriminatory.

The apex court, however, asked the government to look into the issue of spectrum usage charge (SUC) but did not pass any order on this.

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