The department of telecommunications (DoT) is deciding on a team of legal experts, from India and abroad, to look into the notice served by Russian conglomerate Sistema JSFC, following licence cancellation of its joint venture firm, Sistema Shyam Teleservices (SSTL).
The six-month deadline given by Sistema for resolving the investment dispute due to cancellation of 21 licences of SSTL by the Supreme Court is nearing. Earlier this year, it had served a notice to the Centre invoking the right to protect its investment under the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (Bipa) with Russia, after the SC cancelled 122 telecom licences on February 2, in the 2G allocation case.
Sistema has said it reserves the right to begin proceedings against India in an international tribunal if the dispute was not settled amicably by August 28. The Russian government has 17.14 per cent stake in SSTL, a joint venture between Sistema and India's Shyam Group. The pan-India CDMA services provider has around 15 million subscribers.
DoT had formed an Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) for handling the legal notice. Chaired by Telecom Secretary R Chandrashekhar, its latest meeting decided on a team of legal practitioners to assist the department, a DoT official said.
Earlier, DoT had sought legal opinion from the Attorney General, the nation’s highest law officer, on whether the SC order could be challenged under the bilateral investment protection treaties India has signed with various countries.
The ministry of external affairs, part of the IMG, has recommended three names — Rodman Bundy from Paris, Donald M McRae from Canada and senior SC advocate A K Ganguli. Bundy, an American citizen, has experience of appearing before the International Court of Justice and international arbitration tribunal tribunals. At present, he is a member of India’s legal team in the arbitration proceedings under the Indus Water Treaty. McRae, professor of law at the University of Ottawa, is a member of the International Law Commission.
Earlier, the finance ministry had indicated a committee would oversee broader issues arising out of bilateral investment protection treaties.
Besides, Sistema other telecom firms had also served notices to the government under Bipa. Telenor Asia has served a notice under an agreement with Singapore. The investors in Loop Telecom, Capital Global Ltd and Kaif Investment, served notices under the Bipa with Mauritius. Vodafone International Holdings served a notice to the government under the Bipa with the Netherlands.