As the opposition continued with its demand for a JPC probe into
the 2G spectrum scam, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday wrote
to parliament's Public Accounts Committee expressing his
willingness to appear before it on the issue.
Panel head Murli Manohar Joshi,
however, said that the committee would take an "appropriate
decision at an appropriate time".
The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was not impressed
by the prime minister's offer and insisted on its demand for a
joint parliamentary committee probe. The Congress hit back, saying
the PAC was chaired by a BJP leader and the opposition party
should demand a JPC only if it didn't believe in Joshi's
The prime minister Monday followed on his assurance to the
Congress plenary a week ago and wrote to the PAC chairman
conveying his willingness to appear before it in connection with
the 2G spectrum scandal. He said in his letter that there was no
precedent for the prime minister appearing before a PAC, but he
was ready to do so.
"To the best of my knowledge, the PAC takes evidence from the
secretaries of the departments concerned or the heads of
departments or the public sector undertakings," Manmohan Singh
wrote in his letter to Joshi.
"However, in view of the recent propaganda that the prime minister
is unwilling to be questioned by a parliamentary committee, I
would like to inform you that I am willing to appear before the
PAC should the committee choose to seek clarifications from the
prime minister, though I believe there is no precedent of the
prime minister appearing before a PAC," the prime minister wrote.
On the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG)'s report into the
issue of licences and allocation of 2G spectrum, the prime
minister said his office has provided the relevant documents
sought by the PAC.
Responding to the prime minister's offer, Joshi said an
appropriate decision will be taken.
"An appropriate decision will be taken at an appropriate time
depending on the collective wisdom of members," Joshi told
mediapersons here after the end of the committee meeting.
CAG Vinod Rai was present at Monday's PAC meeting.
Joshi said it was wrong to say that the CAG had been summoned by
the committee. He said CAG was a part of the panel and assists it
in its work.
He said at the last meeting the members wanted to understand some
finer and technical points of the CAG report, which looked into
the 2G spectrum allocation controversy, and these were explained
at the meeting Monday.
Joshi said the work of PAC was not tied to CAG report and it can
look into any issue relating to misuse of public money.
BJP leaders, who are steadfast in demand of JPC investigation into
the 2G spectrum controversy, have maintained that the PAC
basically looks into the CAG report.
"Whether government constitutes JPC or not. No comment from PAC,"
Joshi said. Answering queries, he said if there is a need, the
panel will look into the 2G spectrum allocation from 2001.
Joshi said the CAG report had calculated presumptive loss to
exchequer from 2G spectrum allocation in three different ways and
the committee may decide on one of these models or choose another
Answering a query, he said no minister can be called by PAC under
the rules unless the speaker gives permission.
Joshi also denied apprehensions that the committee was working at
a fast pace on the 2G spectrum issue. He said that PAC had met
held meetings in different months.
The government has rejected the opposition's demand for JPC,
saying a PAC was looking into it and a multi-level investigation
was also being conducted simultaneously.
The BJP, insisting on a JPC probe, said: "Unless there is a JPC,
there can't be a conclusion. If the prime minister is clear, why
is the government shying away from a JPC," BJP spokesman Syed
Shahnawaz Hussain told reporters.
Hitting back at the BJP, the Congress said that the PAC was
chaired by BJP leader Joshi and the rival party should demand a
JPC only if it didn't believe in his abilities.
"Today, the prime minister said he will depose before the PAC...If
the BJP doesn't believe in the abilities of Mr. Joshi and the PAC,
we can't help," Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said.