New Delhi, March 4: Noting that no member of parliament has an automatic right to appear before the JPC, the parliamentary panel probing the 2G spectrum issue will decide on former telecom minister A. Raja’s plea to depose before it, its chairman P.C. Chacko said Monday.
“There is no rule which specifies a member’s right to appear before the JPC… We call people if it benefits the committee’s work, not the people themselves,” Chacko told reporters.
Raja had written to Chacko and Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar last week saying he wanted to place his views before the joint parliamentary committee (JPC).
According to informed sources, Raja wants to counter the view of Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati, who told the JPC that as telecom minister, Raja had changed a paragraph in a press note on the 2G licences, which allegedly led to a change in the first-come-first-served policy being pursued by the government.
Stating that he was not dismissing Raja’s claim, Chacko said he “will consult the JPC members and then decide”.
According to Chacko, if Raja’s plea is allowed, the committee would have to call all the former telecom ministers, including those from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who held the portfolio during the National Democratic Alliance rule (1998-2004) as the terms of reference of the committee cover the period from 1998-2009.
“It is not a question of Raja alone… we will have to go back and call all the telecom ministers since 1998,” said Chacko adding: “We are not discussing an incident or a minister.”
In the past, the BJP members of the JPC have had verbal duels with the Congress members over calling Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram before the committee.
The Congress members threatened the BJP members saying former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee could also be called.
So far no parliamentarian has been called by the JPC.
The JPC chairman said the panel almost completed the job of recording evidence in its last meeting Feb 12 and he was now in the process of drafting a report.
“We hope to table the report in the budget session,” said Chacko.
An entire winter session was washed out as the BJP did not allow parliament to run till a JPC probe was set up in 2011 to look into the telecom licence policy.
The issue came up after an official auditor’s report alleged a presumptive loss of Rs.1.76 lakh crore in the allocation of 2G spectrum licences during the UPA-I government.