New Delhi, Dec 9 (PTI): The controversial report of the JPC, which gave a clean chit to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the 2G spectrum scam saying he was “misled” by the then Telecom Minister A Raja, was today tabled in Lok Sabha amid pandemonium.
The report was tabled in the Lok Sabha by JPC Chairman P C Chacko after Speaker Meira Kumar disallowed any debate on the issue at the presentation stage during Zero Hour.
This prompted members of DMK, UPA’s erstwhile partner, and Opposition members, including those from the BJP, Left, Trinamool Congress, BJD and Shiromani Akali Dal, to stand up in protest.
Yashwant Sinha, Harin Pathak (both BJP), Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) and Kalyan Banerjee (Trinamool) shouted that the report was a “fraud” on the Constitution, while DMK members walked out of the House.
Senior BJP leader L K Advani also rose to say something to the Speaker but could not be heard in the din.
DMK members, including T R Baalu and former Telecom Minister A Raja, later returned to the House and trooped into the Well as one of their members tore some papers, forcing the Speaker to adjourn the proceedings till 2 PM.
Apart from giving a clean chit to the Prime Minister, it rubbishes the loss figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore estimated by CAG, saying it was “ill-conceived”. Opposition members in the JPC have termed it as a “bundle of contradictions”.
Before allowing Chacko to table the report, the Speaker said she had received a communication from BJP leader Yashwant Sinha objecting to violation of rules during deliberations of the JPC. Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) had sought to raise objections on the issue, she said.
Kumar said there was no provision in the rules permitting a discussion or raising of objections before presentation of a report adopted by a JPC.
“I am, therefore, not inclined to allow any debate or permit raising of objections at the stage of presentation of the report of the JPC,” she said as opposition members rose in protest.
In the report which delved into the period between 1998 and 2009, Chacko is learnt to have used his power to “edit” five of the six dissent notes to redraft the language which, according to him, was unparliamentary. Dissent notes are a way to record members’ objections to the findings and are appended with the final report.
Eleven opposition members, including five of BJP and one each of BJD, TMC, CPI, CPI(M), AIADMK and DMK had voted against the JPC report. BJP’s Gopinath Munde had not attended the meeting.
In its dissent note, BJP insisted that the Prime Minister and then Finance Minister P Chidambaram should have been asked to depose before the JPC.
They regretted that even though the main accused, A Raja, had made several offers to depose before the panel, he was not allowed to do so.
The report, which was adopted by majority vote on September 27 in the absence of two JD(U) members, also accused Raja of forging the press note of January 7, 2008, after it was seen by the then Solicitor General G E Vahanvati.
Besides Congress, its UPA ally NCP and outside supporters of the ruling alliance SP and BSP had supported the report.
The report said the JPC wish to point out that the procedure regarding the First-Come-First-Served (FCFS) criteria was a “misrepresentation of facts and in tactic deviation from the existing procedure”.
While giving sequence of events leading to allocation of 2G spectrum, it says, “The Committee are inclined to conclude that the Prime Minister was misled about the procedure decided to be followed by the Department of Telecommunications in respect of issuance of Unified Access Services (UAS) licences.
“Further, the assurance given by the Minister of Communications and Information Technology (Raja) in all his correspondence with the Prime Minister to maintain full transparency in following established rules and procedures of the Department stood belied.”
It has also questioned NDA’s decision to grant concessions to telecom companies on licence fee despite protests by then 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 Jagmohan who was supported by then Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha.
The 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 report said.
The report, which generated much heat after it was circulated to the 30 members of the JPC in April, suggests there is nothing against Finance Minister P Chidambaram with regard to decisions taken by the Telecom Ministry on 2G allocation.
On the controversial press release issued just before the licences were allocated, the JPC report quotes the CBI to say that the January 7, 2008 press note was “forged by the Minister of Communications and Information Technology” (Raja) with later inclusion of words “press release appd (approved) as amended”.
On the government auditor’s loss figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore, it said, “The Committee are of the considered view that the very move for calculation of any loss on account of allocation of licences and spectrum is ill-conceived.
“It is imperative that the calculation of loss to the exchequer on account of allocation of licences and spectrum has to be viewed in the context of the overall policies laid down for the telecom sector from time to time…,” it said.
The JPC, set up in March 2011, noted that though there were a number of recommendations on spectrum pricing made by TRAI or committees set up by government as well as views expressed by the Finance Ministry and the PMO, “there was no policy decision taken by the government in favour of auctioning of 2G spectrum.”
It said, “Most of the time, TRAI, the Department of Telecommunications, the Ministry of Finance and the Planning Commission favoured maintaining of reasonable spectrum price so as to make available telecom services at affordable price and ensure level playing field among service providers using various technologies.”