The Supreme Court was told that if its order on the Centre’s Presidential Reference validates the First-Come-First-Served (FCFS) system of allocating natural resources, it will impact the ongoing 2G spectrum case trial.

The court was also informed on Wednesday that the Government’s FCFS method for allocating scarce natural resources such as 2G spectrum was opaque, non-competitive, arbitrary and corruption-ridden, as seen in the 2G scam.

The court was told so by the original petitioners in the 2G case – the Janata Party President Dr Subramanian Swamy and the NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), represented by advocate Mr Prashant Bhushan.

Mr Bhushan pointed out that the FCFS method was held to be unconstitutional in the apex court’s landmark 2G case judgment. Dr Swamy stated that to avoid 2G type scams, the apex court rightly ruled that while transferring natural resources, public auction is the most transparent and can get the best price for the Government.

Mr Bhushan alleged that the Government’s aim in filing the Presidential Reference is to continue with the FCFS method of allocation of natural resources, such as minerals and oil, to favoured companies at throwaway prices. Therefore, the Reference should be rejected, he said.

However, to this, the five-judge Constitution Bench headed by the Chief Justice, Mr S. H. Kapadia, said it cannot reject the Reference on the ground that it is mala fide and misleading. One of the questions before the apex court in the Reference is whether auction is the only permissible method for disposal of all natural resources, as stated in the 2G ruling.

Dr Swamy warned the court that if it passes any observation allowing the FCFS method as an option to allocate scarce natural resources, it will cause an impediment and have a deep impact on the 2G trial.

Dr Swamy said a fresh Reference could be considered after the 2G case trial if there was indeed a need to look into issues concerning distribution of natural resources.

He insisted that there was no lack of clarity on the issue of disposal of natural resources in the apex court’s 2G order. The February 2 order had asked the Centre to implement the guidelines, including cancelling 122 licences and conducting a fresh auction within four months. Dr Swamy said, however, that the Centre had got an extension of the deadline and could seek another under the garb of the Reference.

He said if the Centre had any doubts regarding the apex court’s 2G case order, it could have persisted with its review petition. But instead the Centre withdrew its review petition and then chose to move a Presidential Reference, he said.

Earlier, Mr Bhushan said the Government’s own report which was readied much before the 2G judgment has said that natural resources coal, minerals, oil, natural gas, spectrum and land must be given by auction.

arun.s@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on July 11, 2012)
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