Rajya Sabha passes motion for forming JPC (Roundup)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

NEW DELHI - The process of forming a joint parliamentary committee to probe the 2G spectrum scam was completed Tuesday with the Rajya Sabha nominating 10 of its members to the panel.

The committee has 20 Lok Sabha members who were nominated last week.

A Joint Committee of the Houses consisting of 30 Members, 20 from Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya Sabha, be constituted to examine policy prescriptions and their interpretation thereafter by successive governments, including decisions of the union cabinet and the consequences thereof, in the allocation and pricing of telecom licenses and spectrum from 1998 to 2009, Communications Minister Kapil Sibal said moving the motion.

A chairperson for the committee will now be nominated by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar. The report of the committee will be presented by the end of the monsoon session of parliament in August.

Defence for government and focus on the flaws of policies as framed under the National Democratic Alliance regime were the main focus for the ruling party, which also blamed the opposition for disrupting the entire winter session.

Why it refers to 1998 is because this is when the whole policy started, Sibal said moving the motion.

The minister said the revenue sharing arrangement was brought as a replacement of the auction method by the NDA regime.

The point was countered by Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley who said the shift to revenue sharing mode was made to reduce the burden of price which was being shifted to the consumer.

The motion was later passed by voice vote after a heated debate which lasted for four hours.

Hopefully when the proceedings of the JPC takes place members will rise above party affiliation, unlike today when the members towed their party lines, Sibal said replying to the brief debate on constitution of the JPC.

The minister also made an attempt to shield former communications minister A. Raja, who is in judicial custody over allegations of wrongdoing in allocation of 2G spectrum, citing examples from the giving of spectrum in other countries.

In Finland, 3G spectrum was auctioned for free, Sweden took a token price of $11,020 for the 3G spectrum. In US, auction had to cancelled as people overbid; but no one sent a minister to jail saying that the method earned less that the revenue it was supposed to get, he said.

Sibal also complained that the government was not allowed to present its case after the CAG report came as the winter session was washed out due to the opposition disrupting parliament to demand a JPC.

A full parliament session could have discussed all issues. Your demands were more for political reasons, keep the pot boiling, perhaps unintentionally stopping the other proceedings, Congress member Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, targetting the opposition.

Objecting to his comments, BJP member S.S. Ahluwalia questioned the member for participating in the debate even as he had withdrawn his name from the JPC.

Singhvi in reply questioned BJP for the nomination of Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha who were member of GoM on telecom policies in 2003 in the JPC citing conflict of interest.

“He is raising this because he cant advise his own party members who have conflict of interest, I have no conflict of interest, Singhvi said.

Singhvi was earlier nominated for the JPC, but he withdrew his name stating he has fought cases for some telecom companies during the NDA regime.

Taking exception to the points made by Sibal, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said giving of 2G spectrum was against the TRAI recommendations which clearly stated that the prices for the spectrum should not be decided based on 2001 prices.

Congress has three out of the 10 members from Rajya Sabha in the JPC, while in Lok Sabha it has eight out of 20, taking its representation to 11 in the 30-member panel. BJP has two members from the upper house and six from the lower house, making the total eight.

The members from Rajya Sabha are: P.J. Kurien, Jayanthi Natarajan and Praveen Rashtrapal (Congress), Tiruchi Siva (DMK), Yogendra P. Trivedi (NCP), S.S. Ahluwalia and Ravi Shankar Prasad (BJP), Ramchandra Prasad Singh (JD-U), Satish Chandra Misra (BSP) and Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M).

The Lok Sabha nominated 20 members to the committee Thursday. They are: V. Kishore, Chandra Deo, Paban Singh Ghatowar, Jai Prakash Agarwal, Deepender Singh Hooda, P.C Chacko, Manish Tewari, Nirmal Khatri, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury from Congress; T.R Baalu (DMK), Kalyan Banerjee (Trinamool Congress), Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha, Harin Pathak, Gopinath Munde from BJP; Sharad Yadav (JD-U), Dara Singh Chauhan (BSP), Akhilesh Yadav (SP), Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI), Arjun Charan Sethi (BJD) and M. Thambi Durai (AIADMK).

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