The government maintained on Friday that the Supreme Court had vindicated its stand that policy-making was the executive’s prerogative and revenue-maximisation cannot be the sole criteria to distribute scarce natural resources.
Reacting to Thursday’s verdict on a presidential reference on the 2G issue, three senior ministers, however, did not dwell on whether the official auditor had exceeded his brief while assigning notional losses to the exchequer on account of allocating radio waves and coal mines.
The government’s position on the Supreme Court’s verdict was explained at a joint press conference by finance minister P Chidambaram, communications minister Kapil Sibal and law and justice minister Salman Khurshid.
“The court’s decision reiterates the fact that the executive of the day has the right to form a policy and that the court will not review it – and so stands the same for any other constitutional authority,” Chidambaram said.
Asked what the court’s verdict meant in terms of the allocation of coal mines, which the official auditor says caused the exchequer a loss of around $34 billion, Chidambaram said it was not at variance vis-a-vis the government’s stand.
“We have consistently maintained that if any irregularity or illegality is found in policy implementation, those should be corrected and those responsible must be held to account.
“We have never defended any irregularity or illegality but the problem was that people pointed at the government and said that the choice of policy was irregular,” Chidambaram said, adding this criticism was neither based on law nor logic.
A five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia said Thursday auction could be a better option where the aim is maximization of revenue, but then every method other than auction of natural resources cannot be ruled out either.
Reacting to another question on the observations of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, Chidambaram chose to only state that the basis on which the huge losses were ascertained by comparing allotment and auction was not sound.
“The underlying premise of the CAG’s report – based on the implied benchmark on which the presumptive loss was judged – was false. The opinion of the Supreme Court says auction is not a constitutional mandate or principal in disposing of natural resources.”
“In a way, all of us are in a learning process. I think the government learns and other constitutional authorities are also a part of this learning process,” the finance minister added.