2G scam: JPC report critical of NDA’s decision

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Ex Telecom Minister A Raja claimed that all decisions were taken in consultation with PM Manmohan Singh. Photo PTI
Ex Telecom Minister A Raja claimed that all decisions were taken in consultation with PM Manmohan Singh. Photo PTI

New Delhi, Apr 19 (PTI): The draft JPC report on 2G scam has questioned NDA’s decision to grant concessions to telecom companies on licence fee despite protests by Telecom Minister Jagmohan and says the then government had to “forego” over Rs 42,000 crore in offering Migration Package to cellular operators.

On the issue of extending concessions to telecom operators such as moratorium on payment of licence fee, the panel said the government went ahead despite opposition by then Telecom Minister Jagmohan who was supported by then Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha.

The draft report also said that by offering Migration Package, the government had to forego revenue to the tune of Rs 42,080.34 crore.

“A perusal of the note initiated by the then Minister of Communications (Jagmohan) revealed that he was in complete disagreement with the representations made by the operators, who demanded a moratorium on payment of licence fee for two years and extension of period of licence from 10 to 15 years,” the draft report said.

Jagmohan was of the view that “there was no legal, financial, commercial or moral justification for agreeing to the representation made by the operators.”

The report, which has come under fire from the BJP, said he strongly favoured the option to recover all the outstanding dues from the operators.

The report, however, appreciated the decision of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government to review the telecom policy “to facilitate India’s vision of becoming an IT superpower and develop a world class telecom infrastructure in the country.”

Jagmohan had drawn the attention of the then Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha on the issue of non-recovery of licence fee on December 21, 1998. Sinha is a member of the JPC.

In his communication dated December 24, 1998, the Finance Minister, while sharing his concern over non-recovery of huge amount of licence fee, mentioned that this would add to the budget deficit of Rs 2,800 crore in the relevant year’s Budget, the draft said.

“As regards the demand of the telecom operators for concessions in licence fee payments, he (Sinha) held the view ‘that businessmen should learn to take the responsibility of their decisions as they cannot be votaries of free market on the one hand and come back to the government for a bail out in such a situation on the other.’

“It is, however, surprising that despite serious observations by the two ministers regarding granting of concessions to the telecom service providers, the proposal was allowed to be processed unhindered,” the draft report said.

It said the DoT, “at no point of time,” calculated the loss suffered by the exchequer due to the Migration Package.

“The Committee have, however, been informed that impact on licence fee and spectrum charges collection due to the Migration Package was to the tune of Rs 43,523.92 crore, which included the sum of revenue – Rs 1,443.58 crore foregone on account of extension of effective date of licence by six months,” said the draft.

It said according to the DoT, the Migration Package did not provide for recovery of the amount of Rs 42,080.34 crore (after excluding Rs.1443.58 crore).

Meanwhile BJP today dubbed the draft JPC report on 2G spectrum scam as a “cover-up” attempt to “save” Congress leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and vowed to raise it in Parliament next week.

The party refused to believe that the Prime Minister was not involved in the process of allocating the 2G spectrum in 2008 and accused Congress of using the JPC to “subvert” the truth.

It accused JPC chief P C Chacko, a Congress leader, of denying an opportunity of deposition to former Telecom Minister A Raja who is the main accused in the scam and had claimed the PM and then Finance Minister P Chidambaram were in the loop.

“This looks like a cover-up,” BJP President Rajnath Singh told PTI while commenting on the draft report which has given a clean chit to the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister.

He pointed out that Raja has been requesting to depose before the JPC to give his version.

“He (Raja) is the main accused. It is surprising that despite his request he was not called. The country would like to know why a minister, who was even jailed in the case, was not called despite his request. This question will definitely be asked in Parliament,” Singh said.

Speaking to reporters in Bangalore, Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said “history repeats itself once as a tragedy and again as a farce. This is the second time in history that Congress and UPA neck deep in corruption had subverted the truth using the JPC mechanism.”

He said if the JPC finds that Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram were innocent, “all I can tell you is this JPC report will meet the same fate as the Bofors JPC. Its credibility will probably be worse than earlier JPCs.”

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