Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy Tuesday told the Supreme Court that auction was the only method of transparent allocation of natural resources for private commercial exploitation and a government panel also favoured it.
“If the natural resources have to be allocated in a non-arbitrary, non-unreasonable, non-malafide and non-opaque manner… then auction is the only method to do it,” Swamy told the apex court constitution bench hearing the presidential reference.
The apex court constitution bench comprising Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice D.K. Jain, Justice J.S. Khehar, Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Ranjan Gogoi is hearing a presidential reference on whether auction was the only method of allocating the resources, as held by the court in its 2G verdict in February.
Swamy told the court that well before the apex court delivered the verdict, quashing the 122 2G licences allocated by former telecom minister A. Raja and holding that auction was the only method of allocating natural resources, the government’s committee on allocation of natural resources (CANR) recommended that auction was the only method for giving away the natural resources.
He said the CANR headed by the former finance secretary Ashok Chawla had made 81 recommendations and favoured auction for the allocation of natural resources.
The government May 25 accepted 69 of the recommendations of the panel, set up in January 2011, he said.
It was incumbent upon the government to place the committee’s report before the court hearing the 2G case, Swamy said.
Arguing for NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), a respondent, counsel Prashant Bhushan said that “one of the obligation of the state under the public trust doctrine is that it should ensure maximum value of the natural resource that is sought to be allocated to private operators”.
“If you are alienating a natural resource for commercial exploitation and profiteering then the doctrine of public trust says that it could only be done by securing maximum revenue for the people,” Bhushan told the court.
Referring to former Karnataka Lokayukta Santosh Hegde’s report on illegal mining, Bhushan said that those engaged in illegal mining were becoming a threat to democracy.
“Some people are becoming a threat to democracy,” Bhushan told the court, while referring to Hegde’s report which pointed to an “unprecedented situation where the state has lost its moral authority”.
The court said that if there was an arrangement that fitted in the constitutional scheme then there was no problem.
But in an economic sphere where different variables were available, could the court say that only one method of allocating natural resources should be followed? asked the judges.
In his written submission, senior counsel Soli Sorabjee, also representing CPIL, told the court that “the answer to the questions posed in the (presidential) reference in effect and substance tantamount to reconsideration of the (2G) judgment”.
The contention of the government that the reference was merely seeking clarification was untenable, the senior counsel said.
Sorabjee told the court that it should not permit the government to “invoke its advisory jurisdiction as a convenient expedient to overcome inconvenient judgment”.
The court would next hearing the case Thursday.