JPC and its effectiveness called into question by Opposition

The term of the now-controversial Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) investigating the Rs. 1.76 lakh crore 2G spectrum scam has been extended to the last day of the winter session of Parliament.

This is the second extension for the JPC, which took place two days before the expiry of its second term at the close of the monsoon session on September 6.

It is learnt that two vacancies in the JPC have also been filled from the Rajya Sabha, one by a Congress member and the other a nominated member.

A member of the Opposition in the JPC told The Hindu on condition of anonymity that Chairman P.C. Chacko has informed JPC members that the next meeting will be held in the third or fourth week of September. Sources further say it is likely that Mr. Chacko’s report will be placed at this meeting and since there are an equal number of Congress and Opposition members, the Chairman will use his casting vote to get it passed. Calls to Mr. Chacko for his comments went unanswered.

The Opposition’s objection to the existing report is that ex-Telecom Minister A. Raja and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram have not been called as witnesses.

The report further mentions irregularities in spectrum allocation during the BJP tenure, which, the party believes, is unwarranted. The Left parties allege that leading players in the 2G scam have been let off the hook in the present report. “The report is wishy-washy, does not pinpoint those who are really responsible for the 2G scam and does not reflect the real state of affairs and the chain of events leading to very serious loss to the exchequer. A report passed by casting vote is not a report at all,” a source close to the JPC proceedings told The Hindu.

Since Opposition members in the JPC feel that the mandate of Parliament for the JPC has not been carried out, it appears inevitable that one or several dissent notes could be submitted. It is learnt that dissent of parallel notes on the 2G scam have been prepared by CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta and by BJP leader Yashwant Sinha.

JPC is an arm of Parliament set up to inquire into serious cases of irregularity and the JPC on 2G is the only one to be set up in recent times after the Bofors scam. Although there has been a massive outcry over the CWG scam and Coalgate, with the latter estimated at Rs. 1.86 lakh crore, far higher than the 2G scam, there was no demand for a JPC to probe the matter.

Opposition sources point out that the controversy generated by the JPC report on 2G also promises to be a deterrent for the setting up of JPCs in the future as parliamentarians and media are likely to argue that the mechanism is defunct since it cannot arrive at a consensus report which in turn fails to justify the huge costs of running such a committee.

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