In Harish Salve’s diagnosis of economic slowdown, a Supreme Court connection
Harish Salve, one of India’s top lawyers, has told a news website that the Supreme Court is responsible for India’s current economic slowdown and that it began with the top court’s judgment in the 2G spectrum case in 2012.
Harish Salve made the remarks in an interview to senior advocate Indira Jaising for her legal news website, The Leaflet.
The Supreme Court had in 2012 cancelled 122 spectrum and licences granted to eight companies in February 2012, saying the whole process was “illegal”. Salve had appeared for some of the 11 telecom companies in the case.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had in 2010 estimated a loss of Rs 1.76 crore to the exchequer in the allocation of 2G spectrum licences to private players in 2004 and 2009.
“… I squarely blame the Supreme Court. I can understand holding people responsible for the wrong distribution of licenses in 2G… Blanket cancellation of licenses where foreigners are investing… See when a foreigner invested it was your rule which said he must have an Indian partner,” he said in the interview.
“The foreigner did not know how the Indian partner got a license. Foreigners invested billions of dollars, and with one stroke of the pen, the Supreme Court knocked all of them out. That’s when the decline of the economy began,” he said.
Salve also talked about demonetisation which he said “by itself was not a bad measure” but said its “implementation left a huge amount to be desired”.
“Whether demonetisation, the way it was implemented, was the only way? I don’t know enough to say that it was. In the short term, it has definitely impacted your economy. The good which has come out of it is that a large number of bogus companies have been exposed and there is a lot of cleanup going on, so some good has come out of it,” Salve said.
“But yes, in the short term, it did affect your informal economy. I am not holding any brief for those who had sack-fulls of cash in their house and therefore burnt the cash,” the top Supreme Court lawyer said.
Salve also said the Supreme Court has been “completely inconsistent” in dealing with commercial cases. The top court, he said, has caused “grave concern in the minds of investors” as he referred to its judgment on coal mines. The top court had in August 2014 declared all 218 coal block allocations from 1993 to 2011 illegal and arbitrary. Then, in September the same year, it cancelled all but four of these allocations.
“You cancelled coal mines by one stroke of the pen, without examining the merits of every case. Much genuine foreign investment in the coal industry went flat. Then what happened? Indonesian coal and other world coal prices softened up. It became cheaper to import. Correct? A few million people are without jobs in India. Indian coal mines are lying closed, and we are importing coal. That is putting pressure on the economy,” the former solicitor general said.