SC posers on auctioning natural resources

The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought to know if adoption of only one method for distribution of natural resources was necessary as per the Constitution, and whether it would not override the principle of separation of power.

“Auction or no auction would depend upon the economic policy. Please show us that it is a Constitutional mandate,” a five-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice S H
Kapadia said.

The court put the query before senior advocate and former law minister Shanti Bhushan, who was arguing in favour of adopting auction for alienation of natural resources as directed by the February 2 apex court order  while cancelling 122 2G spectrum licences.
The bench also wanted to know whether by directing to choose a particular policy, the court would not interfere with legislative freedom.

“Our biggest difficulty is that there is a settled principle of the separation of power. We can always pass directives for the legislature if there are issues of abridging fundamental rights or basic structure of Constitution. But how can we preempt the legislative discretion by laying down that auction has to be the only way to distribute natural resources,” the court said.

During the day-long hearing on the Presidential reference, the bench also pointed out the court would have to exercise its judicial discretion without affecting the basic principle.
Bhushan contended that the court has overriding powers under the Constitution. It cannot cite lack of jurisdiction.

He also said that public interest has to be protected by the court which was possible only
through the adoption of auction for disposal of natural resources.

In his argument, Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy submitted that the apex court should return the Presidential reference without answering as Cabinet had already taken a decision in October 2011 based on the Chawla Committee recommendation that all natural resources would be auctioned.

Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising, appearing for the Centre, submitted, “We don’t have any such information.”

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