parliamentary committee (JPC) on the 2G spectrum allocation will be
the fifth one in India's history and is expected to submit its report
in six months.The first JPC, on the Bofors deal kickbacks, was
instituted in 1987. Though it was formed under pressure from the
opposition, which boycotted parliament for 45 days, the opposition
itself boycotted the JPC proceedings alleging it was packed with
ruling Congress MPs.
The second JPC, on the Harshad Mehta securities scandal, came up in
1992. Several of its recommendations, to form special courts and
recover money from wrongdoers, were implemented after several years.
The third JPC was constituted in 2001 to probe the Ketan Parekh stock
exchange scam. Its recommendations to regulate stock markets were
watered down during the follow-up action.
In 2003, the fourth JPC - on the presence of pesticide content in soft
drinks - was formed. The government accepted the finding that there
was an abnormal level of pesticide content and moved to evolve a
standard for the content in soft drinks.
New Delhi: The long
discussed joint parliamentary committee (JPC) into the allocation
of 2G spectrum is finally in shape. But some experts are sceptical
about the outcome of the panel that had polarised parliament while
others feel the truth behind India's biggest corruption scandal
can now be revealed.
Leaders of the ruling Congress, which buckled in the face of
intense pressure from the opposition that stalled parliament's
winter session, were optimistic as was the Bharatiya Janata Party
(BJP), which fought tooth and nail for setting up the JPC.
However, some Left leaders and parliamentary experts were cautious
about the 30-member multi-party panel that will probe the
allotment of spectrum at below market prices, estimated to have
cost the exchequer billions of rupees and led to the jailing of
ex-communications minister A. Raja.
P.J. Kurien, a Congress Rajya Sabha member who was Tuesday named
as one of the members of the fifth JPC in Indian parliamentary
history, said the panel would "go very deep in the matter".
The panel, he said, would get to the truth. He also indicated that
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has stated that he was ready to
appear before a parliamentary probe panel, would be summoned.
"The JPC can call anyone and ask for any evidence," Kurien told
His colleague in the Rajya Sabha, BJP spokesperson Prakash
Javadekar, said the party was "happy that the JPC demand has come
through, though late".
"We are optimistic that the wisdom of the parliament will track
the truth. We should trust the democratic systems."
Communist MP Gurudas Dasgupta, who was a member of the 1992 JPC
probing the Harshad Mehta securities scam and is in this one too,
"I am neither optimistic nor pessimistic... I will do my work in
the JPC to unearth the facts because I believe this is an
effective investigative mechanism available to parliamentarians."
But there were others who had doubts.
Constitutional expert and three-time Lok Sabha member Sebastian
Paul said the "outlook is rather pessimistic, especially based on
"With the nature of the politically contentious 2G spectrum issue,
I doubt whether a majority-based, let alone a unanimous, report
will be finalised," Paul told IANS over phone from Kochi.
In 1987, he recalled, parliament was stalled for 45 days over the
demand for a JPC into the Bofors gun payoff issue. But when it was
formed, the same opposition boycotted the panel, alleging that it
was packed heavily with Congress MPs.
Subhash Kashyap, former secretary general of Lok Sabha, is another
pessimist. "It all depends upon the approach of the members,"
Kashyap told IANS.
"If the members rise above the party politics and probe the issue
in national interest, the truth will come out. Otherwise, the
panel itself will be a forum for political battle," he said.
Kashyap also recalled the Bofors JPC. "The same people who had
demanded it, boycotted it later."
Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) director Sunita Narain,
however, looks back on the 2003 JPC looking into pesticide content
in soft drinks with satisfaction.
"The JPC endorsed our study that there was unacceptable level of
pesticide content in the colas and soft drinks," Narain told IANS.
Following the JPC report, the government set up standards to limit
the pesticide content in soft drinks.
While the chairperson of this JPC will be announced this week, the
Lok Sabha has named its 20 MPs and the Rajya Sabha its 10. The
members include Kishore Chandra Deo and P.C. Chacko (Congress),
Yashwant Sinha and Jaswant Singh (BJP) from the Lok Sabha.
The Rajya Sabha members include P.J. Kurian and Jayanthi Natarajan
(Congress), Ravi Shankar Prasad (BJP) and Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M).
Their mandate will be to get to the truth of the 2008 spectrum
(airwaves) allocation by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)
government. The issue exploded last year with the Comptroller and
Auditor General indicting then minister Raja for irregularities.
Will this JPC be successful or be another platform to air
political differences? The coming weeks will tell which way it
(George Joseph can be contacted at email@example.com)