Caveat Venditor PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 06 April 2011 00:00
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Caveat emptor. The normal principle of someone caught buying stolen goods is that the buyer better beware. So, if the goods are confiscated, no one is going to make good the loss suffered by the buyer. Just in case the government thinks it will be easy to apply the same principle to ex-telecom minister A Raja’s largesse—that the companies whose licences are cancelled will meekly surrender—a timely letter from the Norwegian Prime Minister will force it to rethink its position. The Norwegian PM’s letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asks that Telenor be given a fair treatment. The argument is a simple one—Unitech’s Sanjay Chandra may be named in the CBI chargesheet as having entered into a criminal conspiracy with A Raja, but Telenor paid a fair market price to Chandra for its share of Uninor. And it wasn’t buying stolen goods, it was buying a licence issued by the Government of India. A similar sort of argument has been made by Etisalat, which bought into Swan, whose owner Shahid Balwa is also in jail along with A Raja. In other words, the operative term is not caveat emptor, but its opposite, caveat venditor, or “let the seller beware”.

That’s a valid point, and the government needs to find ways to ensure genuine buyers don’t get hit, even though they have to be remarkably naïve to think the licences wouldn’t be challenged in court, given how low-priced they were, given the public confrontation between the telecom regulator and A Raja—the regulator went public with the fact that Raja was misusing his recommendations. Fortunately, in most of the cases including Etisalat, the companies did not even fulfil their licence conditions on rolling out networks, so those licences are easily cancelled without a legal challenge. Some way can be devised to ensure Telenor gets back the amounts invested.

Last Updated ( Friday, 25 November 2011 09:55 )

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