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Why does Opposition want a JPC in 2G spectrum scam and not PAC?
Upendra Singh | 04 Dec 2010

Once a JPC gets going, it would help the opposition keep the heat on the government through consistent reporting of proceedings. The moot point is that PAC chairman Murli Manohar Joshi is already waiting in the wings to go into the CAG report.

The winter session of the Parliament has witnessed a ruckus of great magnitude over the demand of Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the 2G spectrum allocation scam of 2008, and the proceedings of both the houses have been marred. However, the government at the centre seems adamant about the JPC probe and has insisted that Public Accounts Committee (PAC) would be the right choice to carry out the probe.

Now, question arises- why is opposition hell bent on JPC probe and not PAC? While assessing the matter closely one would reach a conclusion that opposition has definite targets that it wants to achieve and corner the government.

The PAC of Parliament is supposed to conduct a detailed examination of the reports of the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG), scrutinising the yearly accounts of the Government. Having 15 members of the Lok Sabha and seven members of the Rajya Sabha, the chairmanship of the PAC conventionally goes to a nominee of the main opposition party- and currently the PAC chairman is Murli Manohar Joshi.

The PAC calls upon ministries to explain cases of financial irregularities. The opposition’s argument is that the 2G spectrum scam- described by Supreme Court as the mother of all scams in India- goes far beyond accounting. A JPC can spread its net wider and go into the larger gamut of allocation and look into the role of various players.

More, once a JPC gets going, it would help the opposition keep the heat on the government through consistent reporting of proceedings. The moot point is that PAC chairman Murli Manohar Joshi is already waiting in the wings to go into the CAG report. In case the government accepts the demand for a JPC, in effect, it may mean both a JPC and PAC!

Demanding JPC probe, senior Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) leader LK Advani asserted that the 2G spectrum episode has become multi-dimensional and only a JPC could probe all such dimensions.

Squarely blaming the government for the impasse in Parliament, he said that PAC has its limitations and it cannot for instance look into the Niira Radia tapes controversy. He said: “Business houses, lobbyists are trying to determine who should be the minister, who should have a particular portfolio.... It undermines democracy itself.... It is a multi dimensional scam.... Nothing short of a JPC can do justice to this task.”

The government is against the JPC probe in 2G spectrum scam and said that even if a JPC probe was ordered, only seven of the 37 parties could find a place in the committee. The government tried to assert the point that with the representation of just 7 parties JPC cannot be a representative body.

Government is adamant on going for JPC and said that after being tabled in house, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) goes to Public Accounts Committee (PAC). That is constitutional provision and nobody can alter it.

The CAG report alleges that the 2G spectrum scam caused a loss of Rs.1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer and pins the blame on DMK leader A.Raja who was forced to quit as communication and IT minister.

In one of his remarks, Home Minister P Chidambaram had said that opposition should accept PAC, as it is chaired by the leader of the opposition, but opposition wants nothing short of JPC probe.