Often criticised for alleged judicial overreach, the Supreme Court on Thursday justified its order cancelling 122 licences for 2G-spectrum, saying it was duty-bound to strike down policies that violate constitutional principles or were contrary to public interest.
An apex court bench said this was needed to “ensure that the institutional integrity is not compromised by those in whom the people have reposed trust and who have taken oath to discharge duties in accordance with the Constitution and the law without fear or favour, affection or ill will and who, as any other citizen, enjoy fundamental rights but is bound to perform duties.”
It said, “There cannot be any quarrel with the proposition that the court cannot substitute its opinion for the one formed by the experts in the particular field and due respect should be given to the wisdom of those who are entrusted with the task of framing the policies.
“However, when it is clearly demonstrated before the court that the policy framed by the State or its agency/instrumentality and/or its implementation is contrary to public interest or is violative of the constitutional principles, it is the duty of the court to exercise its jurisdiction in larger public interest and reject the stock plea of the State that the scope of judicial review should not be exceeded beyond the recognised parameters,” the bench added.
Referring to the PILs filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation and Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy, it said: “When matters like these are brought before the judicial constituent of the State by public spirited citizens, it becomes the duty of the Court to exercise its power in larger public interest…”
While admitting that TRAI was an expert body assigned with important functions under the 1997 Trai Act, the bench said, the Trai in making recommendations cannot overlook the basic constitutional principles and recommend which should deny majority of people from participating in the distribution of state property.