Protests against JPC chief’s refusal to allow Raja’s testimony

Within a week of quitting the United Progressive Alliance and four days after the CBI, on suspicion of tax evasion, raided the houses of its leaders M.K. Stalin and M.K. Alagiri and 18 other locations in and around Tamil Nadu, the DMK has denounced the Congress-led management of the JPC that is investigating the 2G scam.

DMK leader in the Rajya Sabha Tiruchi Siva, who is also a member of the JPC, in a strong letter to panel chairman P.C. Chacko, said: “Your unilateral decision not to give an opportunity to Shri Raja to depose before the JPC is derogatory to the dignity of the committee and parliamentary tradition and convention.”

Despite being the prime accused in the 2G case and having made multiple representations, including to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, members of the Congress in the JPC, especially Mr. Chacko, have refused to allow ex-Telecom Minister A. Raja to testify.

Of the six JPCs constituted by Parliament, this is the first instance where the main accused is being denied the opportunity to appear as witness despite his own insistence to do so.

Reminding Mr. Chacko that he is violating the basic procedure and norms of the JPC, Mr. Siva wrote, “The foundational principle of a parliamentary committee is to record evidence from a variety of sources, which include witnesses who are critical in placing crucial information which would be highly useful for the committee.”

Accusing Mr. Chacko of riding roughshod over the existing parliamentary convention, Mr. Siva stated, “By acting against that convention you have denied opportunity to a parliamentary committee to hear a key witness. I may like to place before you that a parliamentary committee functions in a bipartisan manner. Therefore, by following this principle and the decision to prepare the report or for that matter to summon a witness must be taken collectively in the committee itself.”

In a first, this JPC has seen serious allegations against its chairman by several members, including a walkout by BJP members Yashwant Sinha, Jaswant Singh and Ravi Shankar Prasad, a few months ago. Mr. Chacko has also had several unpleasant exchanges with members of the Left parties, especially CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta.

Mr. Siva noted out, “It is important to avoid the practice of unilateral decisions which are not compatible with the functioning of a Joint Parliamentary Committee where decisions are being taken without any regard to party position or ideological affiliation of the members or the chairman.”

Rejecting and mocking Mr. Chacko’s plans to close the report without the testimonies of several key witnesses, including Mr. Raja, the Prime Minister and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Mr. Siva wrote, “You, as the chairman, is now busy in drafting the report. I am earnestly requesting you to convene the committee to discuss the future course of action.”

Raja’s letter

Meanwhile, in a 17-page letter to Mr. Chacko, Mr. Raja has offered a detailed rebuttal of the testimonies of the Attorney-General and other officials before the JPC, which he describes as an attempt at “blame shifting.” The former Minister has clarified that though he has submitted a written response, it “should not be taken to mean that I am in any manner diluting my stand that I should be allowed to depose before the JPC on all issues.”

The level of dissent across multiple parties in the JPC points to the fact that the working, decisions and overall credibility of the committee has become deeply divided, partisan and therefore questionable.

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