Questioning the authority of the Supreme Court to insist that the only way to transfer a natural resource is by auction, the Centre wants the court to re-consider whether it had not encroached upon government territory by declaring the first-come-first-served (FCFS) policy as “per se flawed”.
In a review petition filed by the government against the February 2, 2012 verdict quashing the grant of 122 UAS licences and allocation of 2G spectrum in 2008 by Raja-run telecom ministry, the government said a policy decision to allocate spectrum could not have been the subject matter of judicial review. It says that weighing and balancing of different values and considerations is in the exclusive jurisdiction of the government. Courts can neither don the role of a policy maker nor be expected to have any expertise in it.
To say the least, the stand of the government is not only atrocious, but also appalling. When the whole country knows what went behind the allocation of licenses, where, the then Communication Minister not only defied the Law Minister, Finance Minister and Prime Minister, in throwing away spectrum at dirt cheap rates, the government is trying to justify indirectly, that what the then Communication Minister did was right, whether it was preponing the date of receipt of tenders and advancing cut-off date or any other extraneous considerations to justify his action.
It is almost devil citing scriptures to justify his activities, when the government questions the Supreme Court saying: When it comes to alienation of scarce natural resources like spectrum etc., the State must always adopt a method of auction by giving wide publicity, so that all eligible persons may participate in the process. Any other methodology for disposal of public property and natural resources/national assets is likely to be misused by unscrupulous people who are only interested in garnering maximum financial benefits and have no respect for the constitutional ethos and values….We have no doubt that if the method of auction had been adopted for grant of licence which could be the only rational transparent method for distribution of national wealth, the nation would have been enriched by many thousand crores.”
It is inexcusable, for reasons unknown to the common man as to how the government could question the above sensible premises, particularly when the big fish are or have been in jail for malfeasance and have been charge sheeted by the CBI. One Telelcommunication Minister is in jail and against the other a CBI case has been registered and has resigned, apart from a Rajya Sabha lady MP having spent more than eight months in jail.
For decades, food wastage has been a serious problem in the country, without any ostensible action by the government. The Supreme Court order of August 12, 2010 had directed the central government to ensure free distribution of only grain that would have otherwise rotten in godowns. The government was not asked to feed for free all the poor across the country. Distribute the grain free as a “short-term measure”, the court had said. About 55 million tonnes of grain rot annually in India, according to a leading civil rights lawyer, who had filed a PUCL case in the Supreme Court. He had argued: “The government refuses to give away for free even a few crumbs of it to the poorest people.”
Instead of taking action government missed the point, when the PM said on September 6, 2010, “I respectfully submit that the Supreme Court should not go into the realm of policy formulation,” almost politely telling the court to keep away from what he perceived as the exclusive governmental turf. “It is not possible in this country to give free food to all the poor people.” Obviously, government does not care, if it rots or is eaten by the rats, rather than the poor of India.
It is interesting that rulers have maintained a discreet to politically expedient silence, when, what is needed, is action. The country is being looted left right and Centre. What is needed, is to strike mercilessly on the corrupt. But for the apex court the government would have followed the usual route of setting up one commission or court of inquiry, whether it was the 2G scam, or Commonwealth scam or Adarsh Housing scam. Instead of striking when the iron was hot, the government put the agiators against corruption and black money in jail.
The government has been dogged by a series of corruption scandals. On the cash for vote scam, the Supreme Court criticised the police for carrying out a “shoddy probe”, which obviously had government hand. So much so, a person who was facing a trial was appointed the Central Vigilance Commissioner, that is India’s Chief Anti-Corruption Watchdog and the Supreme Court had to intervene to declare the appointment null and void. Illegal mining and high-level corruption has recently cost the life of a young IPS officer, in Madhya Pradesh. Still central government has not put its weight behind the Supreme Court order of September, 2006 for police reforms.
The anti-corruption report on mining in Karnataka found that the promoters of privately-owned mining companies in the Bellary region—where most of the mines are located—paid off politicians, and then joined politics themselves, rising to positions in the state government.
These mining businessmen-turned-politicians exerted so much influence over the local officials that the Indian media began describing Bellary as a “new republic”.
Political parties, irrespective of their hue, take only their needs of survival into consideration, not the fairplay or justice. Unfortunately, our country is a nation of laws, badly written and randomly enforced. It is not only for what the government does, that it is held responsible, but also for what it does not do.
The Supreme Court has ensured and shown that justice, even by the government should consist of not being neutral between right and wrong, but in finding out the right and upholding it, wherever found, against the wrong.
The most important role of our Supreme Court is interpreting the Constitution and has the ultimate responsibility for settling disputes and interpreting the meaning of laws. It also determines what national policy will be when it applies law to specific disputes.
The Supreme Court and the High Courts are the only courts created by the Constitution. However the Supreme Court has the final say in all legal matters that come to it. It is the highest court in our system and there is no appeal from its decisions unless future courts reverse past court decisions.
A Pope Once said; “Justice requires that to lawfully constituted authority there be given that respect and obedience which is its due; that the laws which are made shall be in wise conformity with the common good; and that, as a matter of conscience all men shall render obedience to these laws.”
By Joginder Singh
(The author is a former Director, CBI)