Government panel wants natural resources’ auction, SC told

July 11th, 2012 - 9:57 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 11 (IANS) NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) Wednesday told the Supreme Court that while the government was resisting auctioning of natural resources, its own high-powered committee of secretaries has recommended this route.

“The government’s own report (signed by secretaries of all important ministries and published by the cabinet secretariat), made much before the 2G judgment, has said that natural resources like coal, minerals, oil, natural gas, spectrum and land must be given by auction,” CPIL counsel Prashant Bhushan told the apex court.

Referring to the Ashok Chawla Committee report, he said that the government was not making it public. Chawla, former finance secretary, is currently chairman of the Competition Commission of India.

An apex court’s constitution bench of 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 seeking its advisory opinion whether auction was the only method of allocating the natural resources.

The reference is rooted in 2G verdict wherein the apex court said if scarce natural resources were to be alienated, then the only legal method was a transparent public auction.

Bhushan told the court that the apex court verdict in the 2G case was the law of the land and was binding.

Chief Justice Kapadia asked “can courts lay down what should be the policy?”

Justice Jain queried “whether all natural resources could be put in one basket on the method of their allocation”?

“Without disturbing the judgment (in 2G) can the president not ask whether auction was the only remedy for allocation of other natural resources. The president wants to know whether law laid down in (2G) judgment can be extended to or applied in the allocation of natural resources,” the court said.

A presidential reference could only be made if there was a doubt on the question of law or facts and the apex court could not cloud it with its reservation over its own judgment, Bhushan told the court.

As Bhushan assailed the presidential reference, Justice Jain asked if it was necessary and mandatory that a presidential reference should be accompanied by doubt on the question of law.

Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy told the court that while, on one hand, government was talking about market economy, on the other hand, it was resisting auction of natural resources at market-determined price.

Swamy told the court that any opinion by it on the presidential reference would impact the trial court proceedings in th 2G case.

He told the court that the government had yet to implement the apex court verdict in the 2G case.

The Janata Party president told the court that it should return the presidential reference.

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