2G spectrum verdict: Govt may have to pay up 'hefty bill' if telcos go for arbitration, say reports
Media reports say Loop Telecom is likely to restart the arbitration proceedings and the case seeking damages with TDSAT
The 2G scam verdict that acquitted all the 19 accused on Thursday may prompt the telecommunication companies, which were alleged to have been involved in wrong doings, to seek compensation from the government, says a report in the Business Standard.
In 2012, the Supreme Court had cancelled 122 2G spectrum licences granted by former telecom minister A Raja on the ground that they were issued in a "totally arbitrary and unconstitutional" manner". The 122 licences were given by Raja for over Rs 9,000 crore, while 3G auctions for a smaller number of licences had fetched the government a sum of Rs 69,000 crores.
The Comptroller and Auditor General of India had assumed a presumptive loss to the exchequer of up to Rs 1.76 lakh crore.
The companies that lost on account of the cancellation of the licences were Uninor (joint venture between Unitech and Telenor of Norway), Loop Telecom, Sistema Shyam (joint venture between Shyam and Sistema of Russia), Etisalat DB (joint venture between Swan and Etisalat of UAE), S Tel, Videocon, Tatas and Idea.
Among the 122 licences issued by Raja in January 2008 on first-come first-serve basis, Uninor was alloted 22 pan India licences, Loop 21, Sistema-Shyam 21, Etisalat-DB 15, S Tel 6, Videocon 21, Idea nine and Tatas three.
However, on Thursday the special court acquitted all the accused in the case.
Soon after the 2G verdict on Thursday, Essar Group in a statement, said, "We are thankful to the court for the judgement as it vindicates our stated position and the court has appreciated/ vindicated it."
Special judge O P Saini, who acquitted all 17 accused including ex-telecom minister A Raja in the main CBI case holding that there was no scam, also let off Loop Telecom promoters I P Khaitan and Kiran Khaitan saying there was no material on record to indicate that bogus transaction was carried out for securing 2G licences.
Loop Telecom, which had paid Rs 1,658 crore as licence fee for spectrum in 22 circles, had earlier moved Telecom Dispute Settlement Authority (TDSAT) seeking a refund of the amount and also Rs 1,000 crore in damages, says the BS report on Friday.
Another report in The Economic Times citing sources has said that the company is likely to restart the overseas arbitration proceedings and also the case before the TDSAT started seeking damages of about $1.5 billion.
Accordiing to the BS report quoting lawyers involved in the 2G scam case, other global companies such as Telenor and Etisalat can also go for arbitration.
"We see a lot of foreign telecos taking the arbitration route under bilateral investment treaties after Thursday's judgment," a lawyer has been quoted as saying.
On the whole, already cash strapped government is likely to see a huge bill coming its way, though the whole process is likely to be long drawn out.
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