JPC report on 2G spectrum scam tabled in Lok Sabha, Bharatiya Janata Party slams Speaker

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 10 2013, 21:02pm hrs
PM, Manmohan Singh, Prime MinisterThe controversial report of the JPC, which gave a clean chit to PM Manmohan Singh in the 2G scam saying he was "misled" by the then Telecom Minister A Raja, was tabled in Lok Sabha amid pandemonium.
The controversial report of the JPC, which gave a clean chit to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the 2G spectrum scam saying he was "misled" by the then Telecom Minister A Raja, was today tabled in Lok Sabha amid pandemonium.

The report was tabled in the Lok Sabha by JPC Chairman P C Chacko after Speaker Meira Kumar disallowed any debate on the issue at the presentation stage during Zero Hour.

This prompted members of DMK, UPA's erstwhile partner, and Opposition members, including those from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Left, Trinamool Congress, BJD and Shiromani Akali Dal, to stand up in protest.

Yashwant Sinha, Harin Pathak (both BJP), Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) and Kalyan Banerjee (Trinamool) shouted that the report was a "fraud" on the Constitution, while DMK members walked out of the House.

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani also rose to say something to the Speaker but could not be heard in the din.

DMK members, including T R Baalu and former Telecom Minister A Raja, later returned to the House and trooped into the Well as one of their members tore some papers, forcing the Speaker to adjourn the proceedings till 2 PM.

Apart from giving a clean chit to the Prime Minister, it rubbishes the loss figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore estimated by CAG, saying it was "ill-conceived". Opposition members in the JPC have termed it as a "bundle of contradictions".

Before allowing Chacko to table the report, the Speaker said she had received a communication from Bharatiya Janata Party leader Yashwant Sinha objecting to violation of rules during deliberations of the JPC. Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) had sought to raise objections on the issue, she said.

Kumar said there was no provision in the rules permitting a discussion or raising of objections before presentation of a report adopted by a JPC.

"I am, therefore, not inclined to allow any debate or permit raising of objections at the stage of presentation of the report of the JPC," she said as opposition members rose in protest.

In the report which delved into the period between 1998 and 2009, Chacko is learnt to have used his power to "edit" five of the six dissent notes to redraft the language which, according to him, was unparliamentary. Dissent notes are a way to record members' objections to the findings and are appended with the final report.

Eleven opposition members, including five of Bharatiya Janata Party and one each of BJD, TMC, CPI, CPI(M), AIADMK and DMK had voted against the JPC report. BJP's Gopinath Munde had not attended the meeting.

In its dissent note, Bharatiya Janata Party insisted that the Prime Minister and then Finance Minister P Chidambaram should have been asked to depose before the JPC.

They regretted that even though the main accused, A Raja, had made several offers to depose before the panel, he was not allowed to do so.

The report, which was adopted by majority vote on September 27 in the absence of two JD(U) members, also accused Raja of forging the press note of January 7, 2008, after it was seen by the then Solicitor General G E Vahanvati.

Besides Congress, its UPA ally NCP and outside supporters of the ruling alliance SP and BSP had supported the report.

The report said the JPC wish to point out that the procedure regarding the First-Come-First-Served (FCFS) criteria was a "misrepresentation of facts and in tactic deviation from the existing procedure".

While giving sequence of events leading to allocation of 2G spectrum, it says, "The Committee are inclined to conclude that the Prime Minister was misled about the procedure decided to be followed by the Department of Telecommunications in respect of issuance of Unified Access Services (UAS) licences.

"Further, the assurance given by the Minister of Communications and Information Technology (Raja) in all his correspondence with the Prime Minister to maintain full transparency in following established rules and procedures of the Department stood belied."

It has also questioned NDA's decision to grant concessions to telecom companies on licence fee despite protests by then Telecom Minister Jagmohan and says the then government had to "forego" over Rs 42,000 crore in offering Migration Package to cellular operators.

On the issue of extending concessions to telecom operators such as moratorium on payment of licence fee, the panel said the government went ahead despite opposition by Jagmohan who was supported by then Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha.

The report also said that by offering Migration Package, the government had to forego revenue to the tune of Rs 42,080.34 crore.

"A perusal of the note initiated by the then Minister of Communications (Jagmohan) revealed that he was in complete disagreement with the representations made by the operators, who demanded a moratorium on payment of licence fee for two years and extension of period of licence from 10 to 15 years," the report said.

The report, which generated much heat after it was circulated to the 30 members of the JPC in April, suggests there is nothing against Finance Minister P Chidambaram with regard to decisions taken by the Telecom Ministry on 2G allocation.

On the controversial press release issued just before the licences were allocated, the JPC report quotes the CBI to say that the January 7, 2008 press note was "forged by the Minister of Communications and Information Technology" (Raja) with later inclusion of words "press release appd (approved) as amended".

On the government auditor's loss figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore, it said, "The Committee are of the considered view that the very move for calculation of any loss on account of allocation of licences and spectrum is ill-conceived.

"It is imperative that the calculation of loss to the exchequer on account of allocation of licences and spectrum has to be viewed in the context of the overall policies laid down for the telecom sector from time to time...," it said.

The JPC, set up in March 2011, noted that though there were a number of recommendations on spectrum pricing made by TRAI or committees set up by government as well as views expressed by the Finance Ministry and the PMO, "there was no policy decision taken by the government in favour of auctioning of 2G spectrum."

It said, "Most of the time, TRAI, the Department of Telecommunications, the Ministry of Finance and the Planning Commission favoured maintaining of reasonable spectrum price so as to make available telecom services at affordable price and ensure level playing field among service providers using various technologies."

JPC report: Bharatiya Janata Party, CPI take on govt, criticise Speaker's actions

Bharatiya Janata Party and CPI today came together to take on the government over JPC report on 2G scam, alleging that the "fraud" and "fabricated" document was tabled in Lok Sabha in violation of rules which has set a "bad precedent".

"This is a perverse report and fraud report and cannot be considered to be JPC report," CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta said outside Parliament along with Bharatiya Janata Party leader Yashwant Sinha.

Both parties were also highly critical of Speaker Meira Kumar's ruling disallowing any debate on the issue at the presentation stage during Zero Hour.

The report, which gave a clean chit to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the 2G spectrum scam saying he was "misled" by the then Telecom Minister A Raja, was tabled in the Lok Sabha by JPC Chairman P C Chacko amid pandemonium.

Dasgupta said, "The report is a fraud as it does not take into account the role of Finance Minister and others. It has only found that one villain that is Raja. PM knew what is happening despite that JPC did not take it into account."

Asked whether CPI has joined hands with Bharatiya Janata Party, Dasgupta said, "We are all members of JPC and no party is untouchable on the floor of Parliament."

BJP said it was "unprecedented" the way it was tabled in the House and voiced unhappiness with the Speaker's conduct.

"It was unprecedented. The manner in which the report was finalised was in violation of rules and norms of the House," Sinha said.

He said the "Speaker did not allow us to raise points of order. MPs have rights to raise points of order under specific rules but she overruled it."

Sinha said, "We did not want the fabricated JPC report. Despite our protest the Speaker remained unmoved. It is very very saddening. Because it is a commentary on the way and the manner in which our parliament is functioning.

"It is a very sad day for our parliamentary democracy and we strongly protest what has happened in the House."

Dasgupta too was critical of Speaker's actions.

"I have never commented on the behaviour of the Chairman or the Speaker. Today I am saying that I disapprove the way Speaker Meira Kumar turned down our notices. We did not rise accidentally as notice was given in the morning for it.

"Despite that, our legal notices given on time, we are not allowed to make our submission. She could have overruled us after listening to us."

Senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi also criticised the way the JPC report was tabled in the House.

"...It is a travesty of rules of conduct of Parliamentary proceedings. I think this is a bad precedent," he said.

Joshi said certain MPs, who were also members of JPC, were raising important points of order but they were not heard.

"They were not given chance to speak and place their point of view. The Speaker was at liberty to disallow them. But to not allow them to even present their point of view, it's a very bad precedent," he said.