The Supreme Court Thursday cancelled all 122 licences granted to telecom firms during the tenure of former communications minister A. Raja and left it to the trial court to judge if Home Minister P. Chidambaram needed to be tried.
The apex court bench of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice A.K. Ganguly said but for the initiative of enlightened citizens looking for clean governance, unsuspecting citizens would not have known the misuse and arbitrary manner in which second-generation (2G) telecom licences were granted.
The court said the companies whose licences stand to be cancelled will continue to offer their services for four months during which time the telecom regulator will look into the matter and make recommendations for the fresh auction.
The court, taking note of the arbitrary manner in which licences were granted, slapped a cost of Rs.5 crore each on Unitech, Swan Telecom and Tata Teleservices and said half of that will go to the court's legal aid services and the remaining to defence services.
Varying costs have been imposed on other companies also.
The verdict came on a plea by Janta Party president Subramanian Swamy's plea seeking an investigation into the alleged role of Chidambaram, who was finance minister when these 122 licences were issued to these companies.
Lawyer Prashant Bhushan had also filed a petition seeking cancellation of licences.
The two-member bench said the trial court of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) can determine if Chidambaram needed to be investigated, but declined another plea to form a special investigative team for that.