SC to hear Presidential reference arising from 2G ruling today

Written by Indu Bhan | Indu Bhan | New Delhi | Updated: May 11 2012, 06:57am hrs
The Supreme Court will hear on Friday the Presidential reference seeking its opinion on various issues arising out of the February 2 judgment that found that auction was the best suited route for allocating natural resources and flawed the policy of first-come-first-served adopted by the government in 2008.

The reference under Article 143(1) of the Constitution seeks the apex court's opinion on various "questions of fact and law" arising out of its judgment, including the one that cancelled 122 telecom licences granted to 11 companies on first-come-first-servd policy adopted by former telecom minister A Raja in 2008.

The Consitutional bench comprising Chief Justice SH Kapadia, justices DK Jain, Dipak Misra, JS Khehar and Ranjan Gogoi will hear the reference at 10.30 am on Friday.

The government has raised eight questions, including whether auctioning of natural resources across all sectors is mandatory under all circumstances and if so, then this broad proposition of law does not run contrary to the Supreme court judgments including those of larger benches.

The queries raised in the presidential reference would be debated in the open court only after Chief Justice SH Kapadia sets up a 5-judge constitution bench.

The government wants clarity on whether the enunciation of a broad principle "does not really amount to formulation of a policy and has the effect of unsettling policy decisions formulated and approaches taken by various successive governments over the years for valid considerations, including lack of public resources and the need to resort to innovative and different approaches for the development of various sectors of the economy."

Besides, what is the permissible scope for interference by courts with the government policy making, including methods for disposal of natural resources, it questioned.

The queries also include whether the telecom licences granted in 1994, 2001 and between 2003-07 would be affected as they were not auctioned, whether the government can take any action to alter the terms of licence to ensure a level-playing field among all existing licensees and whether dual technology licences granted in 2007 and 2008 would be affected.

The reference also seeks clarification on whether it was necessary for the government to withdraw the spectrum allocated to all existing licensees or to charge for the same with retrospective effect, and if so, on what basis and from what date.

The government also wants to know the impact of the judgment on 3G spectrum acquired by telecom companies whose licences have been quashed by the February 2 judgement.

The Supreme Court while cancelling 122 telecom licenses said that Raja had manipulated the rules to show undue favours to various ineligible companies by allocating spectrum at throwaway prices.

It also said that this method of allocating natural resources like spectrum is fundamentally flawed and only an auction ensured transparency and fair pricing.