Mystery still shrouds over the circulation of a document purported to be the judgment of the Supreme Court in the 2G spectrum case delivered by a two-judge bench last Thursday. The document was circulated about two hours prior to the release of the official copy of the judgment, but it differed from the official copy, confusing those who anxiously followed the developments.
According to the official copy of the judgment uploaded about 5 pm that day, the SC direction quashing 122 licences shall become operative after four months. It further says that keeping in view the decision taken by the Central government in 2011, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India “shall make fresh recommendations for grant of licence and allocation of spectrum in the 2G band in 22 service areas by auction, as was done for allocation of spectrum in 3G band.” No deadline was set by for this operation by the bench consisting of Justice G S Singhvi and Justice A K Ganguly (now retired).
However, the early-bird document circulated to the media and the government around 3 pm stated that the operation should be done by Trai within two months. According to this document, “within two months, Trai shall make fresh recommendations for grant of licence and allocation of spectrum in 2G band areas through auction as was done for allocation of spectrum in 3G band.” It added that the Central government should decide on these recommendations “within the next one month.”
The official copy of the judgment on the Supreme Court website does not carry this direction. This had confused the media, which went by the first document setting the deadline. Some of them later corrected their version after reading the authoritative copy. Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal also spoke at a press conference in the afternoon even before the official copy was uploaded on the Supreme Court website. Trai officials also reacted to the judgment before reading the official version, creating confusion of ideas.
There were other discrepancies too. The official copy said those whose licences were cancelled shall deposit “within four months, 50 per cent of the cost with the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee to be used to provide legal aid to poor and indigent litigants. The remaining 50 per cent cost shall be deposited in the funds created for Resettlement and Welfare Schemes of the defence ministry.”
On the other hand, the document given out by the petitioner’s office, Centre for Public Interest Litigation led by lawyer Prashant Bhushan, said that the cost imposed on the erring telecom firms should be deposited elsewhere. Its version was that 50 per cent of the cost shall be deposited with the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee to be used for providing legal aid to indigent litigants. The remaining 50 per cent cost shall be deposited in the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.”
Another mystery is that the unofficial copy did not carry the date of the judgment. The official one follows the norm and puts the date as February 02, 2012. Moreover, the unofficial document circulated earlier had only 74 numbered paragraphs while the official version had 81 numbered paragraphs.
Old timers are not shocked by these shenanigans occurring in high-voltage cases. Copies of judgments have popped up in the law ministry and official press briefings even before the court released its official version. The difference this time is that the two versions do not tally in all respects.