Millennium Post

For a stronger Supreme Court

While the Supreme Court has clarified the legal position regarding the allocation of natural resources, this must not be read as if the path has been opened for arbitrary action by the government. The matter has some importance as the government is under a lot of fire for the controversial allocation of natural resources such as spectrum and coal where huge scams have taken place and which have cost the national exchequer large sums of money. The Supreme Court judgement does not absolve the government from its responsibility in any way at all. All that the constitution bench of the Supreme Court says is that auction was not the only method for allocating natural resources. This merely means that the government has a variety of policy options and can choose the best method for the allocation. However, the method must be in accordance with constitutional principles and for the common good. Thus the government cannot be arbitrary in the allocation and it cannot throw fairness to the winds. With common good as the touchstone under Article 39(b), much depends on the definition of common good which simply cannot be the interests of a few private individuals or for corrupt practices. The court has affirmed that it has the power to strike down any policy if there was any arbitrariness and has made it clear that though it was not proscribing any method, it retained the power of judicial scrutiny of the methods of the disposal of natural resources which would depend on the facts and circumstances of each case.

Though the court has observed that it cannot go into the wisdom of the executive in policy matters, it has made it clear that these policies can be struck down, if found to be arbitrary and capricious. Thus the government’s action in  the cases of questionable allocations are open to judicial scrutiny which must necessarily take place. Neither the people nor the Supreme Court must forget that it is the last bastion of hope for the people when it comes to arbitrary action by the government or the abdication of governmental function. The government cannot be allowed to get away with bad policy formulation or one which fosters corruption or is its result. The Supreme Court cannot give up its responsibility to regulate government action when it is out of line. Judicial review of government decisions is a cornerstone of our constitution and must not wither away.   
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