New Delhi: The Supreme Court will on Thursday give its opinion on the Presidential Reference moved by the Centre on whether auctioning of natural resources across all sectors is mandatory in line with its 2G spectrum judgement. The verdict will have long-term implications for how natural resources are disposed off by the government.
The Centre is seeking clarity on which resources need to be auctioned and which ones can be allotted on a first-come-first-serve basis.
A five-judge Constitution Bench headed by Chief Justice SH Kapadia will also decide whether the reference is maintainable or not as it was alleged that the government tried to overrule the 2G verdict through the route of reference. The Constitution Bench also consist of justices DK Jain, JS Khehar, Dipak Misra and Ranjan Gogoi.
This in response to the apex court's February 2, 2012 verdict in the 2G case. The court had cancelled 122 licences and had said natural resources should be distributed through a public auction.
The government had on April 12 moved the Reference signed by the then President Pratibha Patil in which eight questions have been raised, including whether there could be judicial interference in policy matters, vis-a-vis disposal of natural resources and investments made by foreign investors under multi and bilateral agreements.
"Whether the judgement lays down that the permissible method for disposal of all natural resources across all sectors and in all circumstances is by the conduct of auction," the Reference has stated.
"Whether the court holds that within the permissible scope of judicial review that the policy is flawed, is the court not obliged to take into account investment made under the said policy including the investment made by foreign investors under the multi and bilateral agreements," it said.
It sought the court's opinion on "whether the judgement is required to be given retrospective effect so as to unsettle the licences issued for 2G spectrum and allocated after 1994 till 2008."
The Reference also touched upon the 3G spectrum allocated through "auction" and wanted to know the implications of the judgement on it.
"Whether 3G spectrum acquired through the auction in 2010 by entities whose (2G) licences have been quashed in the judgement stands withdrawn," it asked.
A meeting of the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, had on April 10 cleared the Telecom Ministry's proposal to seek the Supreme Court's opinion on various issues arising out of the February 2 judgement.
The two-judge bench, in its verdict, had also observed that auction was best suited route for allocating natural resources like telecom spectrum because the policy of first-come-first-serve was flawed.
The bench had on May 11 issued notices to the state governments and industrial chambers FICCI and CII and sought their responses on behalf of the private industries.
The court had also issued notices to the NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) and Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy on whose petitions a bench comprising justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly (since retired) had delivered a judgement on February 2 cancelling 122 telecom licences by holding that the first-come-first-served policy was illegal and unconstitutional.
The bench headed by Justice Singhvi had held that all natural resources should be allocated through auction.
(With additional information from PTI)