2G: SC commences hearing on Presidential Reference
New Delhi: The Supreme Court was on Tuesday told that under the garb of "malafide" Presidential Reference, the Centre was "questioning the correctness" of its 2G spectrum case verdict that natural resources in all sectors should be allocated through auction.
The NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), said the apex court should refuse to answer the questions raised in the Reference which was "not maintainable" as the February 2 judgement for the 2G spectrum attained finality and the review filed against it was subsequently withdrawn by the government.
"Under the garb of the Presidential Reference, you (government) are seeking to question the correctness of the judgement and seeking to overrule the judgement which has reached its finality," senior advocate Soli Sorabjee, appearing for the NGO, told a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia.
However, the bench clarified that it was not on the question of correctness of the judgement and repeatedly said it wanted to know whether it was entitled to entertain the Reference or not if there was any doubt over "interpretation" of law in the judgement.
"We have no doubt about the correctness of the verdict on the spectrum (2G) but if the judgement is extended to cover other natural resources don't you think there is a doubt over interpretation of law in the judgement and are we not entitled to go into the Presidential Reference?" said the Bench, also comprising justices D K Jain, J S Khehar, Dipak Mishra and Ranjan Gogai.
The bench also wanted to know if it was not entitled to answer to the President those aspects of natural resources which have not been dealt with in the judgement and could be allocated in future like pricing of oil and gas.
"If the President wants answer on some other natural resources which are not dealt with in the judgement, are we not entitled to answer them?" the bench asked.
While the bench was putting posers, Sorabjee said the February 2 verdict covered all natural resources given for commercial exploitation.
The CPIL's submission questioning the maintainability of the Reference came after Attorney General G E Vahanvati, in his brief opening remarks, said "auction" cannot be the mode of allocation of all natural resources and 'public trust doctrine' has no application outside environment matters.
The AG said the verdict could hit the local interest and gave example of natural resources like fish by saying that if fishing (in Kerala) would be allowed through the policy of auctioning, the local population would suffer.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who also argued on behalf of the CPIL, said the Centre has moved a "malafide Reference" and the court should return it without answering it.