2G: Does presidential reference support Sibal's zero-loss policy?
By casting doubts on all licenses going back to 1994, the Reference was supporting Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal's 'zero loss' theory.
The government could make some sort of an interim arrangement to ensure that telecom subscribers are not affected if all telco licences issued after 1994 come under the legal scanner.
Sources in the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probing the 2G scam told Firstpost that consumers need not fear in case licences awarded since 1994 were to come under the Supreme Court scanner, although they declined to specify what the government had in mind as an "interim arrangement".
They were responding to a question on why the government was seeking an opinion from the apex court on the validity of all licences from 1994 onwards, instead of restricting its query to the 2008 2G licensing process.
The government moved a presidential reference before the Supreme Court yesterday, seeking its opinion on 12 issues that have already been decided by the top court in lawsuits relating to the appropriation of natural resources, the procedure to allocate them for public good and the policy-making exercise by the government.
While the reference moved under Article 143 of the Constitution doesn't bind the Court to give an answer, the government has, nevertheless, asked its (the Court's) 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.
The sources said the Court had not called former telecom minister A Raja's First Come First Served (FCFS) policy wrong, just that it was against the FCFS policy per se. "So when you strike down FCFS, what happens to licenses issued before 2001? This is a valid question to be asked in the presidential reference," they said.
They said all the questions asked in the reference have also been posed to the Telecom Secretary after he briefed the JPC recently and there were doubts in everyone's mind which needed clarity.
But Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, a senior journalist and one of the petitioners in the PIL (public interest litigation) on the 2G scam, said any query on pre-2001 licences was irrelevant. And that the reference should have confined itself to only four areas: whether all natural resources should be allocated via auctions; whether dual technology licences are valid; whether licensees whose licences have been cancelled bid again; and when the auctions will take place.
He said that by casting doubts on all licenses going back to 1994, the reference was supporting Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal's "zero loss" theory.
The SC may take up the presidential reference next week.
Opposition BJP and AIADMK today lodged strong protest over the manner in which two vacancies in the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on 2G spectrum scam were filled, saying government was setting a bad precedent.
Subbarao is is learnt to have said that while there was no loss to the exchequer due to the 2G allocations, even if there was, it was only notional in nature.