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Economy Apr 13, 2012

Govt showing lack of nerve by shifting policy decisions to SC: Shourie

By Sindhu Bhattacharya

By making a presidential reference to the Supreme Court over 2G licenses and related issues, the Government is abdicating its responsibility of being the policy maker, says former Telecom Minister Arun Shourie.

"Government's view has been that the Supreme Court strayed into policy-making but now, all the questions they are asking under the Presidential Reference are policy related. Government is showing lack of nerve, shifting its responsibility for policy decisions to the SC. This is a basic contradiction in the Reference," Shourie told Firstpost.

Reuters

The Government moved a presidential reference before the Supreme Court yesterday, seeking its opinion on the 12 issues which have already been decided by the top court in lawsuits relating to appropriation of natural resources, procedure to allocate them for public good and the policy making exercise by the government.

Though the reference moved under Article 143 of the Constitution doesn't bind the court to answer, the government has nevertheless asked its opinion on whether the apex court could interfere with its policy decision or insist on auction as the only method for the allocation of natural resources.

Shourie said all the issues could have been resolved by consultation instead of the Government dragging everyone to court. He also alleged that the Government's current confusion over the telecom licenses is not so much because of the SC cancellation of 2G licenses but because of its own ministers - Dayanidhi Maran, A Raja and now Kapil Sibal.

The former Telecom Minister said the Government was pushing the sector back to the 2002-03 days when no one was keen to enter the telecom business and incumbents were mired in myriad legal battles.

"We scheduled auctions in February and March 2003 but no one was willing to bag licenses. The sector was not lucrative. Besides, no one wanted to service circles in Jammu & Kashmir, Bihar, Western UP etc in those days. We called an open house meeting with all stakeholders including media, took suggestions and then formulated policy. The present Government could follow the same path".

But this may prove difficult, now that several matters related to the controversial 2G auctions by A Raja in 2008 are in the courts.

Already the Reference is being seen as a document riddled with contradictions and wrong facts. And a story in DNA newspaper today quotes analysts as saying the presidential prerogative under Article 143 is normally exercised to get opinion of the top court on such issues which have not been dealt by the courts earlier. So it might well be the case that the apex court declines to humour the Government this time.

The court may fix a date for taking up this reference for hearing next week.

by Sindhu Bhattacharya

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