THE Supreme Court has delivered 714 judgments in the first 11 months of 2012. Though almost 40% less than the 1195 judgments delivered in the same period in 2011, it has breathlessly kept pace with the media news cycle by inserting itself as a key player in key political and policy debates. In this essay, I analyze what is arguably the courts most spectacular intervention: the 2G cases, particularly Centre for Public Interest Litigation v Union of India (hereafter ‘CPIL’) and In re Special Reference No 1 of 2012 (hereafter ‘2G Reference’). I will show that a close reading of these two cases leads to a conclusion that the Supreme Court has sacrificed sound and authoritative legal reasoning in CPIL to burnish its popular image as a corruption buster.
A fog of certainty hangs over the national debate on 2G spectrum law and policy: doubters are put on trial in a 24 hour news TV star chamber and quickly branded as corrupt or traitorous. In these times, an essay that employs close legal and constitutional reasoning seems quaint and outmoded and may quickly be dismissed as missing the point, or as heresy! My motivation for this essay is to reiterate that ‘facts matter’ and by extension the law – and the integrity of legal reasoning – matters to the quality of public reasoning in our political and legal system. As Nate Silver puts it: ‘The signal is the truth. The noise is what distracts us from the truth.’1 This essay is about the signal amidst the noise in the Supreme Court’s adjudication on 2G-spectrum policy in India.
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