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Updated: March 16, 2011 01:37 IST

Chacko against “parallel” inquiry into telecom policy matters

Special Correspondent
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P. C. Chacko
The Hindu P. C. Chacko

P.C. Chacko, Chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probing the alleged irregularities in the 2G spectrum and licence allocation, has maintained that a “parallel” inquiry into policy matters by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), headed by Murali Manohar Joshi, “may not be necessary.”

“It is my considered view that the PAC should confine itself to the report of the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) on the purported financial irregularities in the allotment of telecom licences and leave the matters of the telecom policy to the JPC,” he told The Hindu on Tuesday.

Mr. Chacko's comments come amid clear indications that Dr. Joshi will be re-nominated PAC chairman for 2011-12 on expiry of his term in the last week of April. The BJP has a quota of three members from the Lok Sabha, and Dr. Joshi was among the party nominees as the last date for withdrawal of candidates ended on Tuesday.

The PAC chairperson is chosen for one year, and the post is customarily reserved for the principal Opposition party. A 30-member JPC to probe the telecom policy from 1998 to 2008, its implementation, the pricing of spectrum and issue of licences was constituted last month after a prolonged stand-off between the ruling coalition and the Opposition.

In response to a vociferous demand from the Opposition for a JPC, the government, at one stage, agreed to widen the scope of the PAC to look into all matters related to the telecom policy. The Prime Minister even offered to appear before the PAC. However, the Opposition insisted on a JPC probe into the CAG report, which pegged the loss to the exchequer, on account of the alleged irregularities in the spectrum allocations, at Rs. 1.76 lakh crore.

In the past few weeks, the PAC has summoned several witnesses, including the RBI Governor, the CBI Director and the CAG, to question them on various aspects of the grant of licences.

Mr. Chacko contended that subsequent to the appointment of the JPC with clear terms of reference, the PAC should confine its inquiry to the CAG report and the financial implications of the allotment of the licences.

“The wider issues related to the telecom policy should be left to the JPC. It serves no purpose to summon the same witnesses and documents by the PAC and the JPC. I have spoken to a few members of the PAC, and they agree with my view,” Mr. Chacko said.

The JPC would have its first meeting on March 24.

Meanwhile, N.K. Singh, a PAC member of the Janata Dal (United) from the Rajya Sabha, who recused himself from Monday's session and all subsequent meetings that may deal with those mentioned in the Niira Radia tapes, will not be part of the re-constituted committee.

The JD(U) slot is likely to be filled by a member from either the DMK or the Nationalist Congress Party. The JD(U) will be accommodated in the Committee on Public Undertakings.

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