The Supreme Court Friday directed Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) to file within two weeks its response on a plea seeking to quash an agreement for use of "outdated" 2G technology in Arunachal Pradesh and two districts of Assam. The plea has sought the quashing of the agreement signed between the Department of Telecom (DoT) and state-owned BSNL on January 16 this year mandating the use of an outdated 2G technology, which was being purchased at a huge cost of Rs 2,258 crore from two private companies with "malafide intention".
The petitioner's counsel told a bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur that BSNL has sought time to file its reply and court should direct that status quo be maintained in Arunachal Pradesh and two districts of Assam - Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao - with regard to installation of towers and other equipments for 2G technology.
"Let status quo be maintained. The work order has not been issued yet for installation of towers. It should be stayed," said advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for petitioner NGO Telecom Watchdog.
The counsel representing BSNL told the bench that apart from installation of towers, everything else has been done and stay order would harm the subscribers.
When the court asked BSNL about number of subscribers, the counsel said that 836 subscribers were already there in Arunachal Pradesh.
"We need some time to file our reply," the counsel said after which the bench asked BSNL to respond to the plea within two weeks.
The petitioner has claimed that 2G technology was used in these areas despite the fact that telecom regulator TRAI and the DoT had themselves said it was outdated.
The NGO has challenged the Delhi High Court's August 13 order by which its plea in the regard was dismissed.
Bhushan had earlier told the apex court that there was a direction from the communications ministry that in future, all mobile networks would be 4G but in two districts of Assam and entire Arunachal Pradesh, 2G towers were being installed.
He has alleged that as per the contract for the work, the cost was Rs 80 lakh per tower but it should have been Rs 11 lakh per tower for 2G based technology.
"2G and 3G technologies have already been declared by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) as 'yester-years' technology," the plea has said.
It has claimed that the agreement was "discriminatory" as the Telecom Commission had last year decided to have 2G+4G technology but excluded Arunachal Pradesh and two districts of Assam - Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao - for "no reason".
"Move to deploy an outdated 2G technology in Arunachal Pradesh and two districts of Assam is to wrongly enrich two private companies at the cost of exchequer," it has alleged.
"Substantial public money will go down the drain if the agreement is not quashed. Such public funds cannot be allowed to be wasted in this manner in buying an outdated 2G technology for the benefit of private companies," it has claimed.