JUDGMENT G.S. Singhvi, J. 1. The important questions which arise for consideration in these petitions,
one of which has been filed by Centre for Public Interest Litigation, a registered Society formed by Shri V.M. Tarkunde (former Judge of the Bombay High Court) for taking up causes of public interest and conducting public interest litigation in an organised manner, Lok Satta, a registered Society dedicated to
political governance, reforms and fight against corruption, Telecom Watchdog and Common Cause, both Non-Governmental Organisations registered as Societies for taking up issues of public importance and national interest, Sarva Shri J.M. Lingdoh, T.S. Krishnamurthi and N. Gopalasamy, all former Chief Election Commissioners, P. Shanker, former Central Vigilance Commissioner, Julio F. Ribero, former member of the Indian Police Service, who served as Director General of Police, Gujarat, Punjab and C.R.P.F. and Commissioner of Police, Mumbai, P.G. Thakurta, an eminent Senior Journalist and visiting faculty member of various institutions including IIMs, IIT, FTII, IIFT, Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jamia Milia Islamia University and Admiral R.H. Tahiliyani, former Chief of Naval Staff, former Governor and former Chairman of Transparency International India and the other has been filed by Dr. Subramanian Swami, a political and social activist, are: (i) Whether the Government has the right to alienate, transfer or
distribute natural resources/national assets otherwise than by following a fair and transparent method consistent with the fundamentals of the equality clause enshrined in the Constitution? (ii) Whether the recommendations made by the Telecom Regulatory
Authority of India (TRAI) on 28.8.2007 for grant of Unified Access
Service Licence (for short ‘UAS Licence’) with 2G spectrum in 800, 900 and 1800 MHz at the price fixed in 2001, which were approved by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), were contrary to the decision taken by the Council of Ministers on 31.10.2003? (iii) Whether the exercise undertaken by the DoT from September 2007 to March 2008 for grant of UAS Licences to the private respondents in terms of the recommendations made by TRAI is vitiated due to arbitrariness and malafides and is contrary to public interest? (iv) Whether the policy of first-come-first-served followed by the DoT
for grant of licences is ultra vires the provisions of Article 14 of the Constitution and whether the said policy was arbitrarily changed by the Minister of Communications and Information Technology (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Minister of C&IT’), without consulting TRAI, with a view to favour some of the applicants? (v) Whether the licences granted to ineligible applicants and those
who failed to fulfil the terms and conditions of the licence are liable to be quashed?
For detailed examination of the issues raised by the petitioners, it will be
useful to briefly notice the history of the growth of telecommunications in the country and the reforms introduced 1984 onwards. 3. In 1839, the first telegraph link was experimented between Calcutta and
Diamond Harbour covering 21 miles. In 1851, the telegraph line was opened for traffic, mostly for the official work of the East India Company. In course of time, telegraphy service was made available for public traffic. The Indian Telegraph Act was enacted in 1885. It gave the exclusive privilege of
establishing, maintaining and working of “telegraphs” to the Central Government. It also empowered the Government to grant licences on such conditions and in...