Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
By canceling all 122 2G licenses issued after 2008 by the Telecom Ministry, the Supreme court has established the supremacy of the law of the land over the executive decisions.
It has stunned the telecom operators who had got the spectrums and had invested in the sector. The judgment will set the trend for future course of trading of natural resources and codes for the governance.
It will affect diplomacy, trade, foreign direct investment, corporate and legal issues and politics. The judgment indicates that allotment of licenses by A Raja, the then Telecom minister, was fraudulent. The co-petitioner in this historic case was advocate Prashant Bhushan alongwith Janata Party President Dr Subramanian Swamy, who fought the case and has created history.
He talked exclusively to Sheela Bhatt on the trend-setting judgment.
What are the highlights of Thursday's judgment?
There are two important highlight in the judgment. First, it says the natural resources such as spectrums( airwaves) has to be kept in public trust and has to be used only for the public benefit.
If it is given out to private person it should be done only through transparent public auction. If any company has made illicit money through non-auction of the natural resources or if the company has got it at throwaway prices by non-transparent ways, then that allotment, grant or largesse has to be cancelled or withdrawn.
That resource should be put to public auction so that the value of that resource could be realised for public benefit.
'SC judgment shows corruption will not pay off'
Communications Minister Kapil Sibal has warned that people will come to know soon the financial impact of the judgment. What he meant was that price of calls through mobile phones would increase. Even Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Jaitley has agreed about the financial loss. It's said that the judgment will hit the telecom sector hard.
I don't think so. It is a very good and welcomed a signal to the whole business community of the country that all the corruption is not going to pay in future.
The business should be done in fair and transparent manner, especially when the corporations are dealing with the government to get the natural assets.
The government's defence on Thursday was that "first come first serve" policy was found to be flawed by the Supreme Court. The policy was legacy of the National Democratic Alliance government. Sibal has tried to pass the buck to the NDA regime. Do you agree with his argument?
The Supreme Court has said much more than that. Of course, the first-come-first-serve policy was flawed, particularly at time when it was implemented by the government. But, apart from that the very grant of spectrums way below the market price in this manner by the UPA government without public auction has also been found to be flawed.
One can understand the time when you have plenty of resources. The numbers of people who want these resources are less. Then, one can understand the principle of following the first-come-first-serve. But, when the numbers of people are high who want the natural asset, which becomes scarce, then, the auction is the only option.
'The judgment will have salutary impact on public interests'
The government has said that Telecom Regulatory Authority of India recommendations were flawed which were followed by Raja. So the government has distanced itself from TRAI and the Ministry of Telecommunication?
The issue of price of the spectrums had engaged the minds of the government. It was initially referred to the Group of Ministers. Later, it was taken back from them and referred to the committee consisting of members of Finance and Telecommunications Ministry.
However, later, the finance minister allowed the minister of Telecommunication to decide this issue and thereafter okayed the policy of giving away spectrums at the 2001 price. In my view, P Chidambaram's role as former finance minister has to be fully and thoroughly investigated.
The Supreme Court has not said anything against him.
They have left the matter to the special judge to decide who is already dealing with the special application of Swamy on Chidambaram's role.
How will this judgment play out politically?
I can't say about the political impact. It will have salutary impact on public interests and public welfare.