Though 70 days have passed after extension of term, committee has not met even once
Opposition members in the JPC investigating the 2G scam are suspecting foul play in JPC Chairman and Congressman P.C. Chacko’s failure to call a meeting, more than two months after the Lok Sabha had agreed to extend its term. Of the 110-day extension of the JPC from May 10, already 70 days have passed without any meeting.
CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta, who first questioned the delay on June 19, 2013 in a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, has now shot off a second missive expressing his suspicion that Mr. Chacko, instead of calling a meeting, “would like to push through his draft by majority vote.”
The draft saw the 30-member JPC split in the middle, after 15 members disagreed with the report and demanded that a fresh report be prepared after questioning ex-Telecom Minister and prime accused A. Raja as well as other key witnesses. Mr. Chacko has argued that Mr. Raja had submitted a written response but could not be interviewed due to shortage of time. Mr. Raja, on the other hand, submitted a 106-page detailed submission in April 2013, making direct allegations that both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram were in the know of his actions on 2G. This he did within days of the leak of the draft JPC report. This crucial submission by Mr. Raja is yet to be discussed in the JPC, which has never met since.
Mr. Dasgupta reminds Ms. Kumar that “no meeting has been called” though the monsoon session is less than two weeks away. Questioning Mr. Chacko’s intent, Mr. Dasgupta asks, “If the meeting is not called, [then] why the Chairman moved a resolution in the House to extend the tenure of JPC?”
Charging Mr. Chacko with “parliamentary affront,” Mr. Dasgupta emphasises that “failure to call the meeting after Parliament extended the term on the request of the Chairman is not a matter of default but a matter of serious violation of parliamentary tradition. This is the surest way to kill the JPC, having a calculation on the number.”
Seeking Ms. Kumar’s “immediate intervention,” Mr. Dasgupta said, “The chairman of the JPC by wilful default cannot paralyse the parliamentary committee. It is beyond his prerogative and constitutes a violation of parliamentary norms.”
BJP joins dissent
Adding to the disapproval over Mr. Chacko’s “arbitrary behaviour” in failing to convene the meeting, the former Finance Minister in the NDA government and senior member of the BJP on the JPC, Yashwant Sinha, told The Hindu that “this is clearly a ploy to scuttle the probe altogether since the monsoon session of Parliament has been shortened to just 4 weeks, which means that parliamentarians will be busier than usual.”
According to Mr. Dasgupta, he has prepared an alternative report on the 2G scam which he will release if Mr. Chacko does not act. Likewise, Mr. Sinha is in the final stages of completing his dissent note.
Not my fault: Chacko
However, Mr. Chacko told The Hindu that the fault lay with the Opposition leaders. “The Congress members were willing to meet as per my schedule. It was the Opposition members, including the BJP, who asked me to postpone the meeting — the BJP because of their national party meeting in Goa.”
“Once I return to Delhi on July 22, I will seek consensus on the number of meetings required till the session ends on August 30 as well as suitable dates,” he added.
Over the last two years, Congress members have steadfastly refused to call the Prime Minister, Mr. Chidambaram and Mr. Raja to appear as witnesses in the JPC. Mr. Raja first wrote to Ms. Kumar in February 2013 demanding that he be allowed to appear as a witness while claiming that he had been “condemned unheard.”