Describing the functioning of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on 2G as “scandalous”, BJP leader Yashwant Sinha on Tuesday demanded that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram appear before it for the truth to come out.
Mr. Sinha, who is also a member of the JPC, has raised serious objections over not convening of the panel meeting for two months now and demanded that then Telecom Minister A. Raja, who has been wanting to appear before the JPC, be allowed to do so as he is a key witness in the scam.
The BJP member had on Monday written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking him to appear before the committee to “clear” his name following allegations levelled against him by Mr. Raja. He said any hesitation on the Prime Minister’s part to appear before JPC will prove that he has “something to hide.”
“The way in which the JPC proceedings are being conducted by its chairman is scandalous to the extreme. For over two months the meeting of the JPC has not been called and various members including me have been demanding convening of JPC meeting,” Mr. Sinha said.
The NDA’s former Finance Minister feared, “We will not be able to arrive at the truth and the whole effort will be wasted in concealing the truth.”
Mr. Sinha said Mr. Raja has cast serious aspersions on the conduct of the Prime Minister, Mr. Chidambaram and on the evidence presented before the JPC by Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati.
The BJP member said, “If Raja presents his side of the story then the Prime Minister and Finance Minister will be in serious trouble and to save them from this situation the JPC Chairman is not calling Raja. I have written to the Prime Minister that he should appear before the JPC so that the truth comes out.”
Reacting on Mr. Sinha’s remarks, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said it would be more appropriate if Mr. Sinha, being a JPC member, speaks within the confines of the Committee.
Mr. Tewari said Mr. Sinha’s demand which was raised in the JPC and rejected by the Committee sounds “completely preposterous”.
Mr. Sinha has also written to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, saying “the dignity, honour and effectiveness of the Parliamentary institutions are at stake in this and in a way the standing of the whole Parliament of India”.
The BJP leader also took a dig at Prime Minister’s earlier offer to appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
“He is doing it because he knew under the rules, the PAC cannot call political persons. The PAC rules prohibits PAC from calling political persons. So he knew PAC had no authority to call him. The JPC, on the other hand, has the authority to call political persons and therefore he is not making that offer,” he said.
“I think it is in your own personal interest to appear before the JPC and clear your name. You may also suggest to the Finance Minister to make a similar offer,” Mr. Sinha wrote to PM.
Justifying his demand for calling the Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Mr. Raja before the panel, Mr. Sinha said the JPC is not meant to prosecute people or convict them but to fix political responsibility which would not be achieved if political persons were not called before it.
“The JPC is not meant to prosecute people, not to convict them and not to hand out sentences. The JPC’s main purpose is to fix political responsibility and comment on the officials’ conduct. If we don’t call political persons, then how do we fix responsibility on them. The Executive is accountable to Parliament and it is under that rule that a Joint Parliamentary Committee has been constituted,” he said.
Mr. Sinha also cited instances of previous JPCs like the one into the stock markets scam in 1992 and 2001 when the Finance Ministers and other Ministers had been called before them.