New Delhi: The chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) that is looking into all aspects of the 2G spectrum allocation scam, P.C. Chacko, has expressed his willingness to consider amendments to controversial aspects of the draft report which has given a clean chit to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram.
Media reports quoted Chacko, as saying that any amendment could be considered if opposition members convince him through discussion about any wrong in the draft instead of indulging in politics.
He also expressed his readiness for a probe into the leakage of the report to the media, amidst the opposition's allegations that he was responsible for it. He said he was ready to have a marathon meeting continuously day and night to debate the report in the committee as he has to table it in Parliament by May 10.
His comments came after 15 opposition members in the 30-member panel accused him of being partisan and demanded his removal. Chacko, a Congress leader, said if the opposition maintains its current stance, it would suggest that the report is not palatable or acceptable to them.
On Friday, Chacko said he will be meeting the Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar to seek her guidance on when to convene the next meeting of the JPC. Talking to reporters outside Parliament, Chacko said although 15 Opposition members have moved a no-confidence against him, it was his responsibility to fix the meeting.
He indicated that the meeting may be held either on Monday or Tuesday. Meanwhile, in Mangalore, Karnataka, senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj has accused the ruling Congress Party and the UPA Government at the Centre of systematically destroying constitutionally established institutions one by one.
Referring specifically to the JPC probe on the 2G scam, she said that a majority of JPC members have expressed no confidence in Mr. Chacko, and added that he had no moral right to continue as chairman of the JPC in the wake of the report on the scam being leaked to the media. The JPC meeting could not be held on Thursday because the Lok Sabha was adjourned following the death of a sitting member.
Chacko on Thursday said it is Speaker Meira Kumar's discretion to continue or remove him as JPC chairman. "There is no rule to remove a chairman of the committee. It is not there in our rule book. So, it is the Speaker's discretion, and she has to take a decision," said Chacko.
"I have also received a copy written by the Congress members to the Speaker. The Speaker has to take a decision," he added, when asked about the Congress Party writing a letter to the Lok Sabha Speaker and asking for removal of three Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders from JPC.
The Congress Party had written a letter to Speaker Meira Kumar demanding the removal of BJP members Jaswant Singh, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Yashwant Sinha on technicalities. As the opposition prepared to scuttle the JPC report on 2G scam, the Congress-led UPA Government has expressed confidence that the members will exercise their correct judgment irrespective of their party affiliations.
"I am confident that the members will exercise their correct judgment irrespective of their party affiliation," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath told media persons outside Parliament here.
"Well...we will see that in the meeting," he added, when asked whether the members of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in the JPC would support the report prepared by Chacko.
Fifteen JPC members belonging to BJP, JD (U), CPI, CPM, Trinamool Congress, BJD, DMK and the AIADMK have submitted a memorandum to the Lok Sabha Speaker expressing their “no-confidence” in Chacko on grounds of his “highly partisan, unfair and prejudicial” conduct, as also his alleged role in leaking the draft report.
Former telecom minister A. Raja had on Monday lashed out at the JPC for not allowing him to depose before it, saying this is not the way the panel examining the 2G spectrum allocation is expected to function. "This is not the way the JPC is expected to function. Even without waiting for my statement, the JPC prepared a draft report and also leaked it to the media," said Raja.
"I always had concerns about the credibility of the JPC," he added. Raja, who has been accused of indulging in an estimated scam worth Rs. 1.76 lakh crore when in office, last week reiterated that he did everything in consultation with the Prime Minister, and said that he will prove his innocence in the 2G spectrum scam case.
Raja has repeatedly said that Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram were in the loop over policy decisions related to 2G spectrum allocations. According to media reports, a leaked draft report of the JPC says Raja had tweaked the rules to award mobile permits to a few chosen companies, and that the Prime Minister and Finance Minister were not informed about the changes.
The draft report has given a clean chit to the Prime Minister on the 2G spectrum allocation, saying he was misled by Raja. The report blames Raja for tweaking norms in favour of a few companies. It rubbishes the estimated loss figure of 1.76 lakh crore rupees as assessed by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG).
The 2G scam has damaged the reputation of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government and also tarnished the image of the country's telecom sector.
Raja was forced to resign from the Union Cabinet after the CAG’s report faulted him for undervaluing spectrum to favour companies who were largely ineligible for 2G spectrum, and added that the government had probably lost Rs. 1.76 lakh crore in estimated revenue.