ISLAMABAD - The Islamabad High Court (IHC) turned down a petition on Monday challenging the public auction of 3G and 4G spectrum.
The IHC single bench comprising Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui conducted the hearing of the petition moved by Ch Muhammad Akram Sajid through his counsel Raja Muqsit Nawaz Khan Advocate and dismissed it after hearing preliminary arguments of the counsel.
The petitioner had cited federation of Pakistan through secretary ministry of IT, chairman Pakistan telecommunication authority (PTA), M/s Pakistan Mobile Communication Limited (Mobilink), M/s Telenor Pakistan, M/s Pakistan Telecom Mobile Limited (Ufone), M/s CM Pak Limited (Zong) and M/s Warid Telecom as respondents in his petition.
The counsel stated in the petition that petitioner has come to this court in public interest litigation against the so-called public auction of 3G and 4G spectrum by the respondents without lawful authority and, therefore, it should be declared void, illegal and without legal effect.
“The respondents had acted in excess of their jurisdiction in violation of principles of fair play and transparency. There was an apparent error and such excess of jurisdiction had resulted in manifestation of injustice to the people at large throughout Pakistan and heavy loss to the public exchequer,” he argued.
Raja Muqsit informed the court that in pursuance of the policy directive on spectrum auction for next generation mobile services, the respondent number 2 initiated the process of auction of 3G/4G services in Pakistan and he published the final information memorandum on March 17, 2014.
The petitioner contended that chairman PTA in fragrant violation of provisions of information memorandum and PEPRA laws, colluded with existing telecom operators (bidders) with mala fide intention to artificially reduce the 3G/4G spectrum price and caused major loss to national exchequer and auctioned this valuable national asset at very low price.
“The under-valuation is also evident from the value at which India has recently auctioned 3G spectrum. India has sold the spectrum at US $22 billion while Pakistan did it at only less than US $1 billion. Indian mobile market is 5 to 6 times bigger than our market and their annual ARPUs are only 20 per cent higher than Pakistan. But, PTA has auctioned 3G spectrum at 22 times less price compared to Indian auction,” maintained Raja Muqsit.
He contended that this is also rumoured that Warid was purposely asked not to bid to avoid any serious auction and promised to be given 4G spectrum later as compensation. This is also confirmed from the recent text message by Warid to its customers that it will soon be launching 4G services whereas Warid neither participated in the auction nor was awarded any 4G spectrum. “Since respondent number 7 has not participated in the bidding process, it should not be awarded or allowed to use 3G/4G spectrum,” said the petitioner.
The petitioner’s counsel stated that in view of the abovementioned arguments, it has become evident that PTA and bidders in collusion have caused heavy losses of billions of dollars to people of Pakistan by auctioning 3G/4G spectrum at very low price. “The entire auction process including fixing the reserved price and change in number of available 3G spectrum lots at the eleventh hour was dominated by personal interest, mischief, corruption, non-transparent and collusion,” said the petitioner. Therefore, he prayed to the court that the auction procedure adopted by PTA is tainted, mala fide, collusive, non-transparent, non-competitive, illegal and clear violation of PEPRA laws; hence it be quashed and fresh auction be conducted in transparent manner in accordance with law.
He further requested the court that in the meantime, the operators be restrained from using the 3G/4G spectrum as is being done even before the issuance of licences.