The Congress and the DMK members of the Public Accounts Committee, which is looking into the 2G spectrum allocation scandal, virtually declared war on panel chairman Murli Manohar Joshi on Wednesday.
The members said he consistently rejected their valid suggestions, showed his bias by not examining the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report dealing with the telecom policy during the NDA regime, did not pass important documents relating to the probe to the members, was in a hurry to finalise the draft report before giving reasonable time to the members to even read it, and finally, did “a hatchet job.”
Seven members of the PAC, led by Congress MP K.S. Rao, said they would meet Speaker Meira Kumar and “seek her protection” for their rights as members of the PAC. The Chairman “cannot be allowed to bulldoze the report through,” he said adding that perhaps this was the very first time this had happened. Mr. Joshi “should resign” for having denigrated one of the most powerful of all parliamentary committees.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Mr. Rao said Dr. Joshi showed a “pre-determined biased mind.” This was clearly visible in paras 1.68 and 1.69 of the report that mentioned “deposition” before the committee by the Cabinet Secretary and the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister when that meeting on April 16 was cancelled and they did not appear before the committee. (They had, however, given responses to the questions sent).
The members said adequate notice of the agenda of a meeting was not given. The draft report was leaked to the press even before it was received by the PAC members. Television channels were carrying excerpts since Wednesday morning when members received an e-mail at 11 p.m. on Tuesday and the physical copy of the report at 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday. Just because he wanted to complete the report before April 30, a shoddy job along the lines that were “predetermined” by him had been done, they said.
“We had to cross check the references in the report with the actual documents that weigh around 60 kg and run into thousands of pages,” Mr. Rao said. He was endorsed by Navin Jindal and Saifuddin Soz as well as Aruna Kumar and Tiruchi Siva. There was no reason for him to rush and hurry, as the PAC was a “continuing body” and Dr. Joshi had himself as Chairman, taken up from where previous chairmen had left.
No informed discussion
Mr. Rao said Dr. Joshi “should resign as chairman” since he flouted every norm of the PAC and “denigrated this high committee” that normally worked in a non-partisan way by finding consensus and unanimity. He said repeated complaints that the members were not being sent copies of documents received from various Ministries and companies went unheard. The result was that no informed discussion could take place and the “Chairman hogged three-fourths of the time at all meetings.”
The members' plea that the main accused, the former Communications Minister, A. Raja, be summoned went unheard. Dr. Joshi called Outlook Editor Vinod Mehta but when it was suggested that Arun Shourie “who was a former Communications Minister and had written reams on 2G and related issues” be called, this was ignored and turned down.
Mr. Soz said, “Dr. Joshi refused to invite witnesses suggested by us. He was oblivious to the fact that we are a democracy and he was only the first among equals in this committee. He simply did not give us time to read anything. His mind was already made up.”
They also pointed out that after every meeting he was briefing reporters and television journalists in a selective way and all through this the ruling coalition MPs on the committee kept their mouths shut.
“But today,” said Mr. Jindal, “when television channels started rolling out reports on the PAC draft, which we had not yet received, matters came to a head. We intend to lodge our strong protests at tomorrow's [Thursday's] meeting.”