Is Sibal trying to clean up 2G spectrum mess or worsen it?
The telecom and law ministries seem keen to somehow bring the NDA's 2G licences into the scope of the recent Supreme Court verdict
Is Kapil Sibal's ministry seeking to solve the 2G mess or compound it further?
With the Supreme Court holding the government guilty of wrongly allotting 122 licences and spectrum when the telecom ministry was run by Andimuthu Raja, the UPA seems keen to fight this political embarrassment by spreading the blame further back to the NDA regime.
In its 2 February judgment, the court cancelled 122 licences and said it had not gone into previous issuances since it had not been brought up in the public interest litigation.
Now, however, Kapil Sibal and Law Minister Salman Khurshid seem keen on stirring the hornets' nest.
Instead of just working on getting the 122 cancelled licences re-auctioned through a more transparent process, the UPA is planning a presidential reference that asks the Supreme Court questions about issues the verdict did not touch upon.
According to The Economic Times, the government will not just seek clarifications on what the 2 February Supreme Court order says, but also ask it whether licences issued between 2001 and 2007 without auctions should also be cancelled.
This is nothing but a transparent effort to muddy the waters and try and shift the blame further up to the NDA regime just to mitigate the UPA's political embarrassment.
This is not to say that all the NDA licences were above board, but when the sector is in such policy confusion, is it more important to get it back on track or create a further crisis just to provide salve to a bruised UPA ego?
In fact, the move to compound the problem is being spearheaded by the telecom and law ministries, while saner voices are urging caution.
The Economic Times quotes a letter from Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia to the telecom and law ministries and the PMO as advising caution. Ahluwalia is not sure all the points to be raised in the presidential reference are valid.
"On balance, the best course of action may be to implement the order of the court cancelling the licences and complete the auction in good faith. Challenges regarding past licences can be met in court with a clear indication of our position on the need for stability in policy. Decisions on pricing should be taken as executive decisions by the Group of Ministers or Cabinet," the newspaper quotes from Ahluwalia's letter.
For the sake of putting the telecom sector back on the road to recovery, one hopes the Ahluwalia line prevails rather than the Kapil Sibal and Salman Khurshid mischief.
Sibal and Khurshid seem to be looking for more trouble rather than solving the problems now at hand.
Sistema Shyam Teleservices has written to the government seeking a temporary licence, in case Supreme Court orders it to close operations, till the time auction process is completed.