The leaked Niira Radia tapes indicated that the health of every institution is at stake and only a JPC probe could unravel the various facets of 2G scam, including the “role of power brokers” in allocation of Telecom portfolio, BJP leader Arun Jaitley has said.
Admitting for the first time that he had an “element of regret” over wash out of the winter session of Parliament over the JPC demand, the Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha said, “But then, look at the way public opinion, media, Parliament, has today accepted that there is a huge case of corruption as far as India is concerned.
“Why was there insistence to give this (Telecom) portfolio to just one person within one party? What is the role of power brokers within the entire system in deciding all this? How was this policy framed? How was this loss caused?” he told Karan Thapar on ‘Devil’s Advocate’ programme.
Impressing upon the need for the Joint Parliamentary Committee probe, he said, “If those (Niira Radia) tapes, to media, to judges to the political system, to government formation are considered, the health of every institution is at stake.... Who else but the JPC can investigate all this”? Asked if the JPC demand was justified at the cost of paralysing the Parliament for 23 days, the opposition leader said that the larger gain has been much more as the country has been made to realise that corruption in high places is a key issue.
Mr. Jaitley disagreed that it was merely because of the CAG report that the matter had attained focus and said, “All these facts stated in the CAG report are a repetition of what we have been raising and the country was not accepting it till the Parliamentary protests took place after the CAG report.
“The CAG report merely endorses what we have been saying one and half years ago.” He claimed that the BJP had got ample public support owing to its relentless campaign in and outside Parliament and added that the larger gains were that the entire public opinion has swung against the government for not acting on an issue of corruption.
He said, “If we had not obstructed Parliament Mr (A) Raja would still have been a minister, CBI would not have acted the way it did. We have put the entire process into motion“.
He also blamed the media for not taking the 2G issue seriously when the BJP had raised the issue one-and-half years ago. “They don’t merely need a CAG report, these facts were in public domain even before that date“.
To a question if BJP was taking a high moral ground on the JPC issue, when in Karnataka its Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa faced serious allegations of corruption, he said, “There is no CAG report against him”.
On the Lokayukta in Karnataka terming as unethical and improper the government’s move to order a judicial inquiry into land controversies, Mr. Jaitley said the matter was in the High Court and he would not discuss it further.
On the issue of corruption in judiciary, the BJP leader described the situation as “grim and disturbing” and backed suggestions of having a National Judicial Commission as there “is a need to change the way judges are chosen“.
“The present system has failed. It has failed to appoint the best. The whole idea of accountability also is not very successful. If there is a National Judicial Commission, I would blindly support it if it is adequately constituted,” Jaitley said.
He was also for a performance commission which would inquire into conduct of judges and provide a platform for ordinary people to bring their complaints before the judiciary.
“I think the in-house mechanism which the judiciary has had has certainly not succeeded. It’s about time there is a national debate on an alternative mechanism of accountability. Speed is of essence as the situation is grim,” the former law minister in the NDA government said.
On allegations against the kin of former CJI Balakrishnan of have amassed wealth beyond known sources of income, he said, “Till a few years back the idea of an allegation against a judge was unthinkable, now, it is an every day talk. Today fortunately, we have the benefit of person with strong integrity as CJI ...justice Kapadia“.
Jaitley said, “Despite that the rumours in the past few years have been far too many, they have been disturbing and I think one inquiry against a judge and retired judge is one factor.
“But, it is time we looked at the kind of people we appoint as judges.
”...the appointment process itself, the criteria, the eliminating of subjectivity in those appointments, accountability, the process of removing a judge or taking action against him is almost unthinkable, impeachment is the rarest of rare processes and I think the people moving around in the corridors of the system... telling you how things are manageable... these are rumours for the last few years. I don’t know if they are true or false“.
On the contentious issue of the BJP youth wing announcing that it would hoist the tricolour in Lal Chowk in Srinagar on Republic Day and if it would lead to sentiments being provoked, Jaitely said, “How is a Kashmiri sentiment provoked by a national flag? A national flag is a symbol of national honour.”
Reminded that the last time the BJP did such a thing was 20 years ago and during the six—year NDA rule at the Centre it did not hoist a flag in the sensitive area, Jaitley said, “The fact that hoiting the national flag can be opposed itself is a good rational for a national party to hold a solidarity march which the BJP youth is undertaking”