The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) that is probing the telecom policy from 1998-2009 on Wednesday directed the Secretary to the Department of Telecom Affairs to “quantify losses” incurred by the government on account of the shift from the fixed regime to the revenue-sharing regime during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) period headed by Atal Behari Vajpayee.
Committee chairman P.C. Chacko told journalists at the end of the resumed session of the JPC that the directive was based on the 2000 Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) report on the policy shift.
“The CAG in its report had observed that as a result of the change, the exchequer suffered a huge loss. However, the loss was not quantified,” he said.
Mr. Chacko also announced that the JPC has decided to summon the then Attorney-General Soli Sorabjee, who had given his opinion to the NDA government on the migration policy.
Both decisions of the JPC pertain to policy decision by the Vajpayee government to switch from a fixed regime to a revenue-sharing regime as per the National Telecom Policy (NPT) 1999, where operators shared their revenue with the government in the form of an annual licence fee and spectrum changes.
Unlike the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) led by Murli Manohar Joshi, which looked into the 2G spectrum policy of the current United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, the JPC's mandate is larger and covers the period from 1998-2009.
At the JPC's first meeting on March 24, Mr. Chacko was authorised to approach the Lok Sabha Speaker on two specific subjects — the propriety of a “parallel probe” by the PAC on the telecom issue, and whether the association of former Ministers who were part of the decision-making on the telecom policy with the JPC amounted to conflict of interest.
The Speaker had ruled that since the JPC was constituted by Parliament, there was no conflict of interest in the association of former Ministers with it. On a parallel probe by the PAC, the Speaker had asked the JPC and PAC chiefs to sort out the matter amicably.
In response to a question on the JPC's proceedings, Mr. Chacko maintained that there was no division on political lines. He was non-committal on whether the JPC would take into account the controversial PAC report submitted to the Speaker by Dr. Joshi.
“If the PAC has submitted a report, we would take the inputs from it. We would rely on all the information available,” Mr. Chacko said. The report submitted by Dr. Joshi has been contested by PAC members of the ruling combine and other smaller parties.
Asked if the JPC would summon jailed former Telecom Minister A. Raja to present his side of the story, Mr. Chacko said the committee would call all those needed to go about its job.