The cabinet on Tuesday approved the telecom department's proposal to seek a presidential reference from the Supreme Court on its February 2 judgment, which cancelled all 122 licences issued for the allocation of 2G spectrum.
“The proposal for Presidential reference has been cleared, information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni said after the cabinet meeting.This is the second time in its eight-year tenure that the UPA government has decided to pose questions for the Supreme Court in the form of a reference by the President on various issues arising out of the cancellation of 2G licences.
The only earlier occasion was when it had sought such a reference from the country’s top court was on the water sharing dispute between Punjab and Haryana in August 2004.
The questions on which the government wants a clarity from the apex court include whether auctioning of natural resouces is the only correct way? Is the first-come-first-serve policy illegal? And were all the licences granted by the government in 2008 for the allocation of 2G spectrum illegal?
The advantage of seeking a presidential reference is that once the President writes to the Chief Justice of India, he will set-up a special constitution bench comprising at least five judges to decide upon questions raised by the government.
The Supreme Court has already dismissed the review petitions of private telecom companies against its judgment cancelling all the licences.
The presidential reference will also seeks clarity from the apex court on the legality of mobile licences issued between 1994 and 2007, and whether the telecom companies who benefitted from these licences should be charged for the spectrum held by them at the rate to be decided through the upcoming 2G auctions.
It will also seek the Supreme Court’s opinion on whether preference should be given to companies whose licences were cancelled for allotment of airwaves even if it is at the auction discovered price.