New Delhi: Senior advocate Harish Salve has blamed the Supreme Court for India’s current economic slowdown, saying the decline began with the apex court judgment in the 2012 2G spectrum case, when in one stroke, it cancelled 122 spectrum licences issued to telecom operators, redrawing India’s telecom industry.
“… I squarely blame the Supreme Court,” he told fellow senior advocate Indira Jaising in an interview for her legal news website, The Leaflet.
“I can understand holding people responsible for the wrong distribution of licenses in 2G… Blanket cancellation of licences where foreigners are investing… See, when a foreigner invested it was your rule which said he must have an Indian partner. The foreigner did not know how the Indian partner got a licence,” he said.
“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.”
Back in 2010, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) revealed that the 2G scam had caused a loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer. The Supreme Court had then cancelled 122 licences in February 2012, rejecting the arguments presented by Salve, who appeared for 11 telecom companies in the case.
Five years later, in December 2017, a CBI trial court acquitted former Union ministers and key accused A. Raja and Kanimozhi, along with 15 others. In doing so, the trial court opined that the scam was “conjectured” by some people who created a “scam by artfully arranging a few selected facts and exaggerating things beyond recognition to astronomical levels”.
SC ‘inconsistent’ in dealing with commercial cases
In the interview, Salve also said that the Supreme Court has been “inconsistent” in dealing with commercial cases, causing “grave concern in the minds of investors”.
He referred to the Supreme Court judgment on coal mines. “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…,” he said.
“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 Supreme Court had, in August 2014, declared all 218 coal block allocations from 1993 to 2011 illegal and arbitrary. Subsequently, in September the same year, it cancelled all but four of these allocations.
Salve also called the apex court judgment cancelling iron ore mining leases in Goa “a howler”. Soon after the judgment, officials had claimed that the state was facing Rs 1,500 crore revenue loss every month from the sector, besides jobs taking a hit.
He claimed that the Centre had sent seven senior secretaries to consult him on dealing with the Supreme Court judgment. “…And one of them said that this judgment will cost India 1 per cent plus of GDP, and that has happened,” he added.