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Bharti Airtel Ltd. and Ors. v. Union of India (UOI) and Ors. - (14 May 2015)

Hitting the right wavelength


Media and Communication

In a case determining if mobile service providers were owed a right of extension of licence by the Government, the Supreme Court held in the negative. Justice Chelameswar's discussion traversed the conflicting responsibilities and obligations of the Union in the attribution of pubic resources: to get an adequate price for grant of access to spectrum for telecommunications, while ensuring that the same was achieved by a transparent, non-arbitrary and non-discriminatory process. He noted that though the licences were in the nature of largesse from the State, their distribution would be required to meet a rational policy, for both the government and the licencee. The Court adjudged that the government's choice of an auction was an equitable way of achieving this objective as it would allow price determination by market forces.

Relevant : Whereas the last few years may record squabbling between the Government, and its 'largesse', on the one hand and mobile service providers on the other, its people have given Indian telecom unabated growth. Gross revenue in the telecom sector for quarter ending March, 2014 was Rs. 60716.21 crores, while for March, 2015 it rose to Rs. 65226.73 crores. The number of telephone subscribers too increased from 970.97 million at the end of December, 2014 to 996.49 million at the end of March, 2015. Bharti recorded the highest net addition of 8.83 million subscribers followed by Idea Cellular at 7.27 million. Meanwhile, wireline connections continued its downward slide as subscribers declined from 28.50 million in March, 2014 to 26.59 million in March, 2015.


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