NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday entertained the Union government’s plea for reconsideration of auction principle for natural resources enunciated in the 2G judgement after the Centre clarified that it was not seeking review of the court’s d
ecision to cancel 122 telecom licences.
A bench of Justices G S Singhvi and K S Radhakrishnan, which had on April 4 dismissed petitions by telecom companies seeking review of the judgment cancelling 122 licences linked to irregular allocation of 2G spectrum, agreed to hear the Centre’s petition for reconsideration of the judgement and limited it to the auction of annulled licences.
Additional solicitor general Indira Jaising clarified: “We do not seek to question the cancellation and as per the judgment we have a window till June 2 to rework the policy. The government wants to ensure the court that it is not questioning the operative part of the judgement.”
However, she said the government was concerned by the general guidelines that auction alone should be the method for allocation of natural resources and sought time for elaborate arguments on it.
The bench said it could understand that the primary anxiety of the Centre was possible applicability of auction principle for mining leases. Jaising asked: “That is one but what about other natural resources, for example water?”
When she sought time for presenting elaborate arguments by the Centre, the bench posted the review petition for hearing on May 1. However, the court was reluctant to add telecom companies as interveners in the Union Government’s review petition and issued notices to petitioners – NGO ‘Centre for Public Interest Litigation’ and Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy.
The June 2 deadline referred to by Jaising related to the apex court’s February 2 directive, saying cancellation of telecom licences would come to effect after four months. The court had directed the government to consider TRAI recommendations and “take appropriate decision within the next one month and fresh licenses be granted by auction”.
Jaisingh said the government was in the process of formulating the modalities for implementation of the judgment, but it wanted to express its reservations on the auction route suggested for allocation of every natural resource.
The first ground in the review petition said: “The finding of the judgment that the state is duty bound to conduct a public auction whenever it distributes natural resources is directly contrary to various legislations including the Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, which grants a preferential right to persons who apply first or prior in point of time for a mining lease.”
It also said that the 2G judgment “failed to consider that the policy of grant of mining rights on a principle of first come first served had been in place since the enactment of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulations) Act, 1957.”
“It is respectfully submitted that if the 2G judgement is correct, a necessary consequence would be that the grant of mining rights under the Mines and Mineral Act, which was enacted as far back as 1957, after due deliberations in parliament qua a most valuable natural resource, would be liable to be held illegal,” it added.