New Delhi: The Centre on Thursday told the Supreme Court that it was bound by its ruling on allocation of 2G telecom spectrum through auction and the Presidential reference was only pertaining to adoption of the process for allocation of other natural resources.
"There is no question of overturning the result in the judegment of the 2G case," Attorney General G E Vahanvati submitted before a five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia.
"There is no doubt about the spectrum now. As far as spectrum is concerned, the government is duty-bound by the court's order for auction. It (reference) is only with regard to other natural resources," he told the bench, also comprising justices D K Jain, J S Khehar, Dipak Mishra and Ranjan Gogai.
He said the reference is required as there is a doubt about the method to be adopted for the allocation of natural resources in view of 2G verdict and it could impact Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the country.
"It is submitted that the contention that in effect, the present reference seeks to overturn or overrule the judgment dated February 2 is plainly not correct. It has been repeatedly made clear that the directions given in the said judgment have been accepted. Doubts that have arisen are with regard to certain observations made in the judgement as a statement of law which require to be clarified," he said.
"Thus, the far-reaching nature of this judgment may impact FDI and other investments in this country. This is the dilemma which the government faces. This is the question of far-reaching importance. This, read with the immediately preceding recital, demonstrates generally speaking the reluctance of foreign investors to look into India as a safe place for investments. It is this question which is highlighted in the reference," he said.
He said auction cannot be the sole procedure for allocation of all natural resources as "revenue maximization is never the sole consideration".
The AG rejected the allegation that the Presidential reference is malafide and deserved to be returned.
"The objection that the present reference deserves to be returned as the same is mala fide, apart from being misconceived, cannot be raised in law," he said.
He said if a statement of law in the judgment is wrong or contrary, then the judgment is wrong and in that case it can be the subject matter of a reference.
"The President of India has made this reference on the basis that there are doubts now with regard to the way forward for the development of the country in general and introduction of FDI in these sectors.
"If, for instance, the government were to announce a project for discovery and winning of some natural resources such as gas other than on auction basis, foreign investors would be wary, if not reluctant, of participating if there was a likelihood of the project being cancelled or challenged on the ground that the auction principle was not implemented," he said.
Vahanvati also brushed aside the contention that the withdrawal of the Centre's review petition against the February 2 verdict of the apex court implied that the court accepted the correctness of the judgement and as such "withdrawal of the review petition has no bearing on the present reference which was filed on April 12 during the pendency of the review.
The reference covers various issues arising out of the apex court's 2G spectrum case verdict including whether auctioning of natural resources across all sectors is mandatory and whether the verdict in the 2G case can be given retrospective effect for radio waves granted since 1994.
The court had on May 11 issued notices and sought responses also from state governments and FICCI and CII on behalf of the private industries along with those of the NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) and Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy.
It was on the petitions by CPIL and Swamy that a bench of justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly (since retired) had delivered its February 2 verdict which cancelled 122 telecom licences holding that the first-come-first-served policy was illegal and unconstitutional.
First Published: Thursday, July 12, 2012, 20:09