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JPC examining NDA's 1999 telecom policy, summons Sorabjee

Wednesday May 18, 2011 09:58:18 PM, IANS

New Delhi: The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probing alleged irregularities in the allocation of 2G licences by jailed former communications minister A. Raja is now digging into the old telecom files dating back to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government in 1999.

The panel is calculating the alleged losses the nation suffered due to the telecom policy of migrating from fixed licence fee regime to revenue sharing laid out by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, JPC chairman P.C. Chacko told reporters here Wednesday.

He said the panel has decided to summon the then attorney general Soli Sorabjee for his opinion relating to the migration policy for telecom operators.

At its second meeting - that remained inconclusive and will continue Thursday, the JPC since being formed in February, started examining the telecom policy pursued during the NDA rule and also went into matters related to the telecom business, allocation of spectrum and its pricing between 1998 and 2008.

Chacko, a senior Congress leader, said that at the day-long meeting the empowered panel looked into the government auditor's report of 2000 that has mentioned about the losses suffered by the change in telecom policy approved by the cabinet in July 1999.

"The CAG has made adverse remarks about migration from fixed licence fee regime to revenue sharing regime," Chacko said. He said the policy was implemented when Pramod Mahajan of BJP was the communications minister.

Chacko said many telecom firms had not shared the revenue with the government. The committee wanted to know the reasons for it and what action had the telecom department taken to correct the losses.

Chacko said the 2000 report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had not quantified the losses because the figures were not available then.

"Now the figures are available, we have asked the telecom secretary to quantify the losses," Chacko said.

Asked if panel members from opposition parties objected to digging out old skeletons as the 1999 policy shift related to the BJP-led government, Chacko said: "There was no division on political lines. Everybody agreed."

He said the BJP's Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha, who were cabinet ministers in 1999 and are now on the JPC, could be called as witnesses before the panel.

"This is technically possible if the committee feels so," he said.

Telecom Secretary R. Chandrashekhar gave a detailed briefing on the telecom policies of India to the 30-member panel that was formed after a persistent demand by the opposition for a parliamentary probe into the 2G spectrum scam.

At the centre of the alleged scam is jailed DMK leader Raja who is alleged to have sold the licences to private firms at throwaway prices, causing a presumptive loss of Rs.1.76 lakh crore to the nation.

Chacko said the meeting also discussed the conflict of interest, an issue raised by Congress members on the inclusion of former ministers Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha as BJP nominees in the panel.

He said Speaker Meira Kumar had declared their eligibility was in order. "The issue is closed now," the chairman said.

Chacko said the issue of BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi-headed Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the JPC probing the 2G scam is also a "closed chapter".

He said the speaker has ruled that the PAC had started its investigation before JPC was formed.




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