New Delhi: The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probing the 2G spectrum scam and India`s telecom pricing policy from 1998 to 2009 has examined only one witness in the four months since its first meeting, raising doubts if it will meet its September deadline.
The panel, formed in February, was tasked to complete its probe by the end of the monsoon session that begins in Aug 1 and ends in September. It held its first meeting March 24 for an internal discussion and has met 10 times since.
Nine of the 10 sittings were for briefings by serving civil servants, who apprised the members about various technical and financial aspects of the spectrum allocation and mobile phone technology.
It was only on July 8 - the 11th sitting - that the 30-member committee examined its first witness, M.S. Verma who headed the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) from March 2000 to March 2003.
There are 85 names on the witnesses list. These include former communication ministers, telecom officials and private mobile phone service providers who were given licences to use expensive and scarce radio waves.
Given the tardy pace, JPC sources said, it is likely that panel head PC Chacko will seek the first extension.
The documents that the panel has to go through - to understand and probe the telecom pricing policy for over a decade - are also "huge" and studying them may take much time, the sources said. They indicated extension of the panel`s tenure is "imminent".
"The first extension would mean that the report would be submitted by the end of the winter session. That means the report will be adopted by parliament in the next budget session only. Even to do that, the panel has to race against time," a member of the panel said to a news agency.
The multi-party committee was given the deadline to submit its report to the Lok Sabha speaker`s office by the end of the monsoon session in September. The report was to be tabled in parliament in this year`s winter session.
The panel, according to Chacko, will meet every day when parliament is in session to complete the task.
The committee has decided to examine politicians, including former telecom ministers, towards the end of its proceedings.
The panel, to investigate policies of successive governments from 1998 to 2009 in allocation and pricing of telecom licences, was set up Feb 25 after persistent demands from opposition members in the wake of alleged irregularities in the allocation of usage licences of expensive second generation radio waves for better mobile telephony service.
The alleged scam surfaced after a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India alleged that the then IT and communications minister A. Raja, now jailed, had sold the scarce spectrum to private firms at throwaway prices, causing a presumptive loss of Rs.1.76 lakh to the nation.