NEW DELHI: The stalemate in Parliament remained unbroken Monday despite Mr A Raja’s resignation as Telecom Minister with the opposition remaining adamant on a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the 2G spectrum allocation, which was rejected by the government.
Both the Houses of Parliament remained paralysed for the third day on Monday with members from the Bharatiya Janata Party, Left, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and other parties trooping to the well chanting slogans demanding constitution of a Joint Parliamentary Committee.
Government rejected the opposition demand as “meaningless” but called a meeting of leaders of political parties on Tuesday to thrash out the issue that showed no signs of resolution despite Mr Raja’s exit from the government.
The Finance Minister, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, who is the leader of the Lok Sabha, would be hosting the luncheon meeting Tuesday when the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report, which is reported to have indicted Mr Raja on spectrum allocation leading to an alleged loss to the exchequer of Rs 1.76 lakh crores, would be tabled in Parliament.
“We want JPC,” was the chant in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha with the opposition remaining firm on its demand. Mr Raja, who is a Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam member of the Lok Sabha, was not seen in the House. The tabling of the report is only expected to whet the opposition appetite for the JPC.
Going on the offensive against the BJP, Mr Mukherjee said that the “JPC demand is absolutely unacceptable. During their (BJP’s) six year tenure, how many JPCs they had agreed including Tehelka?” Noting that there is a “permanent JPC in the form of the Public Accounts Committee,” Mr Mukherjee said that the PAC is chaired by a member of the opposition party, which will thoroughly study the CAG report into the 2G spectrum issue. Ruling out a statement by the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh in Parliament on the resignation of Mr Raja, Mr Mukherjee said, “Why should the Prime Minister make a statement in Parliament. It is the privilege of the minister to make a statement on the floor of the House. If Raja wants to make a statement, he can do so.”
“Demand for JPC is completely meaningless. Let BJP allow the House to run,” the Home Minister Mr P Chidambaram told reporters here minutes after a united opposition forced adjournment of Question Hour in both Houses of Parliament. Mr Chidambaram said the findings of the CAG will be referred to the PAC of Parliament, which has representation of all parties. Senior BJP leader, Mr M M Joshi, who heads the Public Accounts Committee, backed the opposition demand for a JPC probe into allegations of irregularities into the 2G spectrum allocation. Communist Party of India (Marxist) politburo member, Mr Sitaram Yechury said, “If Raja had resigned before the Parliament session began, things would have been entirely different. Why did they have to wait for this long if this is what has to happen. So it is government’s indecisiveness that is leading to this situation,” he added.
The contention of the government is that JPCs have never served the purpose in the past, be it the ones in connection with Bofors or Harshad Mehta issue. The old concept of JPC was to discuss important bills, when department-related committees were not in existence. Now there are 24 Standing Committees, which are some sort of mini JPCs in themselves. Moreover, two of the Parliamentary committees – Estimates Committee and Public Accounts Committee – are very important committees of Parliament.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court, which on Monday heard two petitions on 2G spectrum, was told that the allegation that Mr Raja granted 2G spectrum licences in an arbitrary manner to favour certain companies stood vindicated by the final report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). The Apex Court bench of Mr Justice G S Singhvi and Mr Justice A K Ganguly was told that the cut-off date was advanced retrospectively and illegally to award 2G spectrum only to 122 out of 575 applicants. The Court was told that most of those who were awarded licences and 2G spectrum were ineligible.
Appearing for the petitioner Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), senior counsel Mr Prashant Bhushan told the Court that the licences were allegedly granted on first-come-first-served (FCFS) basis instead of transparent public auction. The Court was told that “even the FCFS method was not properly applied as priority was fixed from the date of compliance with the letter of intent (LoI) conditions rather than the date of receipt of applications.”