UPA wants JPC to do the job

After a three-hour-long discussion here on Thursday, the Public Accounts Committee remained a divided house on the question whether it should finalise its findings in a report on the 2G spectrum allocation or leave the entire issue to the Joint Parliamentary Committee set up specifically to probe this very subject.

Rules of procedure were cited, parliamentary procedures mentioned and instances of past precedents brought up to buttress claims on both the sides.

Ironically, PAC members from the ruling coalition parties, including the Congress and the DMK, were reportedly in favour of the PAC dropping the matter altogether to let the JPC proceed unhindered although for an entire winter session of Parliament these parties had strongly opposed the setting up of the JPC, citing the PAC inquiry into the 2G matter as sufficient.

On the Opposition side too, although the BJP had firmly stated that the PAC was not the proper committee to look at all relevant issues that have cropped up and wanted the probe by a JPC, now party members on the PAC were keen on an early PAC report that would virtually make the JPC redundant.

While those against the PAC continuing with its 2G spectrum inquiry point out that there were no PAC inquiries into Bofors, and the Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parikh scams which were all looked at by JPCs to reinforce their argument against a dual inquiry, those on the other side point out duplication was inevitable as the PAC was already probing the matter for months before the JPC was set up. They also point out simultaneous inquiries by the Central Bureau of Investigation and other agencies. An inquiry by one more agency would not matter. But members of the ruling coalition continued to say some matters were sub judice and it would be wrong for a parliamentary report on a subject under criminal investigation and that is already under scrutiny of the courts.

The fact that the PAC is currently chaired by BJP veteran Murli Manohar Joshi and the JPC by senior Congress leader P.C. Chacko explains the sparring between members of these parties who are on the PAC.

Suddenly, it seems to have dawned on the BJP that it has a better chance of strongly indicting the government through a report by the PAC headed by Mr. Joshi although it had vigorously demanded a JPC, while Congress men realise that a report from the JPC would be more to their advantage especially as it is empowered to look at telecom policy issues going back to the time of the National Democratic Alliance government.