Companies & Sectors
Are spectrum charges being hiked, apex court asks government
New Delhi : The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the central government if it was seeking to hike the spectrum usage charge of one percent of the annual gross revenue of telecom companies for 4G services and if it had the powers to do so.
 
A bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, Justice A.K. Sikri and Justice R. Banumathi also asked the central government to state if it, indeed, had the powers to hike the charges, then what was the source of that authority.
 
"What is the logic of an increase?" it queried.
 
The posers to the government came in the course of a hearing of a public interest plea by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation seeking the quashing of the decision permitting Reliance Jio to enter the voice telephony services using 4G spectrum.
 
Reserving the order after the daylong hearing, the apex court gave a week's time to the petitioner, the government and Reliance Jio to file their written notes, along with the citation of the previous judgments to back their contentions.
 
Counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, told the court that the official auditor had also flagged that a lower one percent spectrum charge can't be different from what was being charged from the holders of airwaves for 2G and 3G services.
 
"You (the government) will not be justified in levying a lower charge on the grounds that the cost of laying infrastructure is higher," the court observed. "Bhushan's worry is you are getting away cheaply."
 
Senior counsel Harish Salve, appearing for Reliance Jio, said the services were becoming cheaper. "Reliance Communications is offering a package, which includes a smartphone, for Rs.7,000."
 
In an apparent jibe at former communications minister Kapil Sibal for his statement that there was "zero loss" to the exchequer for selling the spectrum cheap, the bench said: "Zero loss is also a mistake."
 
The apex court had on May 9 last year issued notice based on the plea that sought a probe into the decision by which Reliance Jio was allowed entry into the voice telephony space using 4G spectrum by paying the price that was determined way back in 2001.
 
The petition had sought a court-monitored probe and alleged the government decision was in violation of the apex court judgment in the presidential reference on the alienation of natural resource by the government to private operators.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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Banking sector seeks hike in tax exemption limit for savings
New Delhi : India's banking sector on Tuesday sought increasing the tax exemption limit for savings to Rs.2.5 lakhs and allowing it to issue off-shore rupee bonds to finance infrastructure, at a pre-Budget meeting Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had with banks and financial institutions.
 
"Other suggestions include listing of non-life insurance public sector undertakings while retaining majority government control and broad-based FDI (foreign direct investment) in agriculture sector," a finance ministry release here said.
 
The delegation also recommended digitization of land records to compensate farmers quickly, and direct distribution of fertilizer subsidies to farmers through the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme so that savings on this account could be used for increasing public capex spending, it added.
 
"Other suggestions included interest rate of small savings schemes be rationalized and fixed at a five year government security yields," the ministry said.
 
Industry representatives who attended the meeting included Reserve Bank of India Deputy Governor Urjit Patel, State Bank of India chairperson Arundhatti Bhatacharya, Bank of Baroda executive director B.B.Joshi, Janaagraha's Bharath Sondur, LIC chairman S.K Roy, IIFCL chairman S.B.Nayar, IDBI Bank chairman Kishore Kharat, Axis Bank chief executive Shikha Sharma, and Citibank chief executive Pramit Jhaveri.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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CPIL's public interest suits must have credibility, says SC
New Delhi  : The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), that raises may public interest matters before the apex court and Delhi High Court, to create a mechanism that inspires confidence that the suits filed by it were really in public interest centric and not a proxy for others.
 
"We gave PIL, you created Centre for Public Interest Litigation. Now we must move to next stage of credibility. There must be some inbuilt mechanism. A lot of (court's) time goes into it (hearing the PILs). How much hours of court's time goes into it. There must be an inbuilt mechanism," a bench of Chief Justice T.S.Thakur, Justice A.K.Sikri and Justice R. Banumathi told counsel Prashant Bhushan for CPIL.
 
The court said this at the outset of the hearing of the PIL by which CPIL had sought the quashing of the decision permitting Reliance Jio to enter the voice telephony services using 4G spectrum.
 
In an obvious expression of its misgivings on the possibility of commercial dimensions being agitated by CPIL citing public interest, Chief Justice Thakur asked: "Why should we hear PILs filed by CPIL. You are a professional litigant. Can you become a 'centre' for PIL. Can anyone walk into your office and tell you 'I want to file a PIL'."
 
Addressing the apprehensions of the court, Bhushan said the CPIL was founded by well-known jurist of yesteryears V.M.Tarkunde and there was a committee comprising senior counsel Fali Nariman, Anil Divan, Kamini Jaiswal, Shanti Bhushan and himself that scrutinises the PIL before it is filed. 
 
The court had asked Bhushan whether it could have the confidence that the PIL moved by CPIL was not rooted in corporate rivalrym indicating that its impression is that the NGO had no mechanism of ascertain that the information being passed on to it was not coloured by any vested interests.
 
It said that it would like to examine the question whether petitions filed by CPIL go through such a process and it was a serious PIL centring around public interest only.
 
Telling Bhushan that CPIL should have a mechanism by which every PIL before coming to the court should be scrutinised by a group of credible lawyers so that the court may not have any misgivings, Chief Justice Thakur said that the NGO should have a system of ascertain the facts and investigating them before taking them to court.
 
"When you come to us, we take you seriously. But when a commercial competitor comes to us, we might not. This competitor knows this (distinction) and might send a proxy to you with documents and information which you otherwise don't have access to. You have to establish a credible mechanism to justify that a particular case is fit to be agitated," he said.
 
As Bhushan tried to impress upon the court that every PIL moved by the CPIL before coming to the court is scrutinised by lawyers and named counsel Kamini Jaiswal as one of them, Chief Justice Thakur observed that it was he (Bhushan) and Jaiswal sitting in their respective chambers and deciding.
 
At this, Bhushan said: "Ultimately it is the court that applies its mind on the issues raised in the PILs by the NGO."
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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