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Thursday, April 5, 2012

SC clears 2G mass burial - Review rejected, open hearing set on policy

SC clears 2G mass burial

- Review rejected, open hearing set on policy

New Delhi, April 4: The Supreme Court has dismissed several review pleas filed by corporate houses challenging the decision to cancel 122 spectrum licences in the 2G case.

The dismissed cases include those of Videocon, S Tel, Sistema Shyam Teleservices, Tata Teleservices, Idea Cellular, Unitech Wireless (TN) and Etisalat DB Telecom.

The two-judge bench said that on April 13, it would hear in open court the government's plea to review whether policy decisions can be overturned by the judiciary. Review petitions are usually held in the judges' chambers.

However, the Supreme Court order on February 2 scrapping the first-come-first-served policy and recommending auctions had stirred a debate, prompting one of the judges, Justice Asok Kumar Ganguly, to write a signed article in The Telegraph to explain his position. Justice Ganguly had retired on the day he delivered the 2G judgment and has since been named to head the West Bengal Human Rights Commission.

The court today dismissed another plea by the Centre to delete adverse references made to unnamed PMO officials in advising the Prime Minister on a letter from Subramanian Swamy to prosecute A. Raja.

The same petition had also challenged a recommendation by the court that a law should be passed so that if no decision is conveyed in four months on a citizen's request for permission to prosecute a public servant, such sanction should be deemed as granted.

Although the recommendation is not binding on the government, the rejection of the review petition can prompt activists to say a moral obligation exists to pass such a law.

On the companies' petition to review the cancellation of the licences, the judges said: "We have carefully perused the record of the case and are satisfied that the judgment of which review has been sought does not suffer from any error apparent. In the garb of seeking review, the petitioner (Videocon Telecommunications) wants re-hearing of the case and we do not find any valid ground, much less justification, to entertain its prayer."

The ruling was delivered by Justices G.S. Singhvi and K.S. Radhakrishnan, who replaced Justice Ganguly because of his retirement.

S Tel's plea was dismissed on the grounds that all points had been raised during the course of the hearing and that the judgment did not suffer from any error apparent warranting its consideration.

Most other review pleas were similarly dismissed after an in-chamber hearing yesterday. Such hearings preclude the presence of journalists and are mostly carried out by circulating papers between the judges.

The companies can file curative petitions against the dismissal of the review petitions. But it is the court's prerogative to hear the curative pleas, sitting in a minimum quorum of five judges.

A plea for review filed by former telecom minister Raja, a key accused in the 2G case, was also rejected.

He had urged the court to delete the adverse references to the manner in which he had awarded 2G spectrum in 2008 at 2001 prices. More important, Raja had said the observations by a superior court were also bound to prejudice his defence in the special court where he is facing prosecution.

On April 13, the Supreme Court will take up the Centre's review plea that challenged a host of policy prescriptions the bench had laid out for similar allotments in the future.

The court "travelled beyond" the established limits of judicial review and entered the exclusive domain of the executive when it held that the policy of first-come-first-served was flawed, the government's review petition said.

A court cannot sit in review of the merits of a policy decision taken on the basis of expert advice, the government said, adding that it was neither the court's role nor does it have the expertise to do so.

Also not decided was the fate of a clarification petition filed by the government seeking extension of time to auction the 2G licences. The court has not yet set the date for taking up the petition.

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