2G: Angry exchange of words at Par panel meet

New Delhi: Angry exchange of words marked the meeting of a Parliamentary panel looking into the 2G issue when Congress and opposition members were grilling top telecom officials on the impact of the Supreme Court judgement cancelling 122 second generation radiowave licences.

Top Department of Telecom officials, including its secretary R Chandrashekhar deposed before the Joint Parliamentary Committee to explain the impact and implications of the apex court judgements of February 2.

A war of words broke out between members of BJP and CPI, and the Congress when the DoT officials were asked whether the apex court had "quantified" the losses in its judgement.

Yashwant Sinha (BJP) and Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) accused Manish Tewari of undermining the judgement which had criticised the first-come-first-served policy in distributing 2G licences.

Tewari asked Chandrashekhar as to whether the Supreme Court has quantified the losses and whether the judgement has "conclusively" said that exchequer incurred losses due to the policy.

The DoT secretary is reported to have said that the judgement had not mentioned losses.

When Tewari pointed that though the court had assailed the policy, it had said nothing on losses, Dasgupta and Sinha accused him of undermining an important judgement.

While questioning DoT officials, Dasgupta slammed the government for going for a review of the judgements saying when the policy has been held illegal, it should not be challenged.

He also said the apex court was well within its right in questioning the policy decision.

On being asked by some members, DoT officials explained that Presidential Reference was one of the options before the government as several legal issues needed to be clarified.

The questioning of DoT officials was based on a presentation they had made before the JPC last week in which it said the Supreme Court's 2G judgements saying it "travelled beyond" the established limits of judicial review and entered the exclusive domain of the executive when it held that the policy of first-come-first-served was flawed.

The presentation contented that the apex court view on the policy was flawed on the ground that the court disagreed with the weight attached by the executive to the different factors underlying the decision.

"The judgement, in respect of the policy, is directly contrary to the settled law as laid down by the Supreme Court that the essence of policy-making and governance is the weighting and balancing of different values and considerations, which is the role of the executive, and it is not permissible for the court to take this exercise upon itself and engage in policy making, both for the reason that it is not its role to do so and does not have the expertise to do so," the DoT said in the presentation.

The Committee was told that the judgement erred in holding that the policy was "flawed" and "lopsided" on the ground that in the view of the court, the considerations of promoting the growth, affordability, penetration of wireless services in semi-urban and rural areas, as well as maintaining a level-playing field between the existing and new licences for 2G spectrum, were outweighed by the considerations of maximising short-term revenue for the state.