ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Call for Review: Supreme Court’s Decision on Reliance Jio

The Supreme Court has ignored evidence of apparent forgery and auction-rigging while dismissing a petition seeking to quash the government's decision permitting Reliance Jio to provide voice telephone services over fourth-generation spectrum. The company, headed by India's richest man, has also failed to meet its roll-out obligations. The apex court should review its decision.

The writer acknowledges research and writing assistance by Abir Dasgupta, Honi Joshi, Natasha Bhide and Mugdha Kinjawadekar.

The 8 April decision of the Supreme Court to dismiss a petition (Business Today 2016) questioning the manner in which Reliance Jio (RJio) obtained a licence to provide a range of mobile voice services ignores evidence relating to criminal forgery of a bank document and rigging of auction procedures (Centre for Public Interest Litigation v Union of India 2016). The country’s highest court also chose not to take into account the failure of the company, headed by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani and which has reportedly invested a huge ₹1,50,000 crore in this venture, to adhere to contractual obligations relating to rolling out its services (DNA 2016). The verdict by a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justices A K Sikri and R Banumathi needs review given the information that is now available in the public domain.

Courtesy : Sourabh2y, from Wikimedia Commons
(Courtesy : Saurabh2y, from Wikimedia Commons)

A public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed by lawyer and activist Prashant Bhushan in May 2014 had argued that a kind of spectrum called broadband wireless access spectrum was acquired by RJio in 2010 using questionable means, by allegedly rigging the auction for it and by using a front company. The petition also argued that RJio had acquired a licence in March 2013 to offer voice telephony using the spectrum it had won in the 2010 auction without paying the amount it should have. Bhushan also requested an order from the Supreme Court directing the Department of Telecommunications (DOT), which is under the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, to levy on RJio spectrum usage charges (SUC) at par with other operators providing voice telephony. Finally, the petition also sought a court monitored investigation into the decision of the government to grant the licence to RJio.

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