A statement made to GoM on July 30 was reflected in answer given to Rajya Sabha

The Centre, which on Thursday disowned a statement made by Minister of State for Finance Namo Narain Meena in Parliament on the Ashok Chawla Committee report on auction of natural resources, told the Supreme Court that a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was held on May 25 to review the Committee’s recommendations and the decision taken thereon by the Group of Ministers (GoM). It was decided that all the 69 recommendations agreed to by the GoM would be pursued for implementation by individual Ministries in a timely manner.

At a meeting on July 30, it was reported to the GoM that out of the 81 recommendations, 66 had already been accepted by the government in full, and three more were accepted with some reformulations.

The reference to the government having accepted the recommendations was inaccurate because the decision taken at the meeting chaired by Dr. Singh was that 69 recommendations would be pursued by the individual Ministries in a timely manner. “It is this statement made to the GoM on July 30 which was reflected in the answer given to the Rajya Sabha on August 9.” The Centre said “these recommendations are still under consideration of the GoM.”

It said: “In the allocation of natural resources, it is not always the best method to offer the resource to the highest bidder. Public purpose may demand a different use of the resource from what the market may put it to. The recommendations of the committee cover various aspects of resource allocation processes including auction/market-related process/non-market mechanisms. Some of the recommendations relate to introducing auction or other market-related mechanisms, while others relate to bringing [in] more transparency, effectiveness and sustainability in the existing market and non-market related mechanisms.”

‘Distinction must be kept in mind’

The Centre said that “in considering the specific issue of whether the committee has recommended auction, the distinction between competitive bidding and market-related processes on the one hand and auction simpliciter on the other must be kept in mind. Auction is only a species of the genus market-related processes. Thus even where the committee has recommended adoption of market-related processes, the same cannot be seen as recommendations for allocation only by way of auction.”

The Union government said: “Some recommendations require constitutional amendments to be enforced, while some require legislative amendments and some can be enforced by way of executive decision.”

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