On Justice Ganguly’s table: three crucial 2G matters

SC Bench to decide role of P Chidambaram,cancellation of licences and whether SIT is required.

Written by Krishnadas Rajagopal | New Delhi | Published: February 2, 2012 2:27 am

On Thursday,when Justice A K Ganguly,a schoolteacher who became a Supreme Court judge,delivers his farewell speech,he would have had a busy day. He would have shared verdicts with longtime companion judge Justice G S Singhvi for the 2G case for the last time.

The Bench will decide three crucial matters in the 2G case: the alleged role of Home Minister P Chidambaram,the cancellation of 122 licences allotted by former telecom minister A Raja to private companies,and whether a special investigation team (SIT) is required to monitor the 2G investigation.

It all started in October 2010,when a little-known public interest plea,demanding a court-monitored investigation into public officials and the then minister Raja,into the allotment of 2G spectrum to private companies came up in the court of the two judges.

The PIL,filed by an even lesser known NGO,Centre for Public Interest Litigation,was,many thought,destined for quick dismissal before the calling of the next case by the court master. It had,after all,been dismissed by the Delhi High Court.

But the predictions went wrong. The two judges,after a quiet discussion on the bench before a waiting courtroom,decided to issue notices to the central government and Raja in person. The short hearing marked the beginning of one of the most significant Indian courtroom dramas in recent times,catapulting the two judges centrestage.

If the government had any doubts on where the court was heading,the next hearing on October 29,2010,brought the answer. Justice Ganguly interrupted Additional Solicitor General Harin Raval to ask: “The same minister (Raja) is continuing. Is this the way a government should function?”

It was a question the government found difficult to answer. Raja had to resign,only to be arrested and tried for his role in allotting 2G spectrum at “throwaway prices”.

The bench was focused,direct and blunt. When Justice Ganguly received an anonymous letter alleging the court was being “managed”,he simply made it public and went ahead with the job at hand. “A letter has come to me. Allegations in the anonymous letter are that we are being managed,” he declared to the courtroom on November 25,2010,before signalling for the hearing to start.

Justice Ganguly makes no bones about his belief that “an independent judiciary has to play a role in maintaining rule of law and the common man’s faith in the justice delivering system”. He stayed true to his belief as he delivered his separate judgment on Subramanian Swamy’s application complaining of delay by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to grant him sanction to prosecute Raja.

His judgment characteristically upheld the common man’s right to directly seek sanction to prosecute the corrupt. Justice Ganguly also recommended a change in the corruption law to set the government a time limit to prevent delay in providing sanction: four months,or “deem” it given.

An insight into Justice Ganguly’s ideal of an uncompromising,independent judiciary is provided by a quote he used in the Swamy judgment: “The judiciary accepts a responsibility for the maintenance of the rule of law that embraces a willingness to oversee executive action and to refuse to countenance behaviour that threatens either basic human rights or the rule of law.”

It was again Justice Ganguly who candidly said in open court on February 12,2011 that “no government wants a strong judiciary”. He was listening to the government’s explanation for the four-year gap between the filing of chargesheet in 2006 and starting of trial in 2010 in the Amar Singh phone-tapping case.

Justice Ganguly’s disapproval of the government’s attitude of encouraging central minister Vilasrao Deshmukh despite the fact that the politician had been reprimanded by the SC for allegedly using influence to favour money lenders against the poor is well-recorded in a judgment.

Again,when accused of judicial hyperactivism,Justice Ganguly in a judgment with Justice Singhvi on July 12,2011,lashed out at their critics for taking an “elitist and status quoist approach”.

He also used his judgment to voice doubts about the advent of globalisation on the workforce. In his judgment in the case Harjinder Singh vs Punjab State Warehousing Corporation on January 18,2010,the judge wrote: “Deep are the ditches created in our society by the so-called advance of globalisation”.

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