Supreme Court to decide on 2G review petitions today

The Supreme Court will examine on Tuesday a batch of petitions from the Centre, the former Telecom Minister A. Raja and cellular operators seeking review/clarification of its judgments in the 2G spectrum cases.

A Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and K.S. Radhakrishnan will take up these matters in the chamber and decide whether to review the earlier judgments or list the petitions for hearing in open court. Under the Supreme Court Rules, all review petitions are initially taken up for consideration in the chamber of the presiding judge. If a decision is taken to hear the matter in open court, notice will be issued to the parties and petitions listed for regular hearing.

A Bench of Justices Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly (since retired) had quashed the 2G spectrum licences and also held that a private complainant could seek sanction for prosecution of a public servant under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA). The court fixed an outer limit of four months (including one month for obtaining the Attorney-General's opinion in certain cases) for taking a decision on sanction.

In his petition, Mr. Raja said: “The judgment of this court, inasmuch as it condemns the actions and inactions of the petitioner as Minister of Communication and Information Technology in numerous places, is in violation of the basic principles of fair play and justice and of affording a person an opportunity of being heard before he is condemned.”

He said he did not know that the court would return findings and observations against him without his being heard. On each of the findings, he had an explanation that his actions were “legal, proper and without favour,” Mr. Raja said.

Clarification sought

Contending that it would not be possible for the government to complete auction of 2G spectrum licences in four months as the process would take at least 400 days, the Centre sought a clarification on devising appropriate procedures. The Department of Telecommunications said the court had given four months for implementing the directions, according to which the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India should make fresh recommendations for fresh 2G licences in 22 services areas by auction as was done for allocation of 3G spectrum.

It said the 2G auction would entail devising appropriate procedures in the light of specific facts of 2G telecom services, and the procedures adopted for the 3G auction could not be adopted in toto. As the licences stood quashed and new licences could be issued only around March next, there would be an inevitable disruption in services for the 69 million subscribers, representing almost 75 per cent of the total mobile subscribers in India, who would be indirectly affected by the February 2 judgment.

Swamy's petition

The Centre also sought a review of the January 31 judgment on the petition filed by the Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy, holding that the Prime Minister's Office sat on his private complaint to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seeking sanction to prosecute Mr. Raja in the 2G scam.

This included “the observations made by this court regarding certain unnamed officers of the PMO without their being parties to the lis.” The Centre faulted Justice Ganguly for his observations in his separate judgment, saying they were “legally untenable.”

In the absence of a time limit in Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), “the conclusions that the question of sanction can arise at a stage anterior to the stage of cognisance and even before the filing of the complaint are, in the respectful submission of the petitioner, legally untenable.” The Centre said “the interpretation of Section 19 in the judgment needs correction.”

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