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Cancel 2G licences given by Raja, says PAC report

Last updated on: April 27, 2011 18:52 IST

Cancel 2G licences given by Raja, says PAC report

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By A Correspondent in New Delhi


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's offer to present himself for questioning appeared to have weighed in on the Parliament's Public Accounts Committee with the PAC giving him a clean chit in its draft report, while indicting arrested former telecom minister A Raja and seeking re-tendering of the 2G licences he had given for a song, causing a loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore (Rs 1.76 trillion) to the exchequer.

The report recommends that all 2G licences issued by A Raja be scrapped and the existing licensees who benefited illegally by his decisions be asked to pay heavy penalty.

It says these steps will not impinge upon the judicial process set into motion for punishing the guilty.

The draft, dictated by the Bharatiya Janata Party leader Murli Manohar Joshi as the PAC chairman, has come as a major embarrassment to his party that has been agitating inside and outside Parliament for the prime minister's resignation over the 2G scam.

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Photographs: Reuters
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BJP leaders like former union minister Yashwant Sinha, who is a PAC member, squirmed at Joshi saying that the prime minister is not to be blamed for the scam.

Joshi has, however, insisted in his draft that the scam was result of the arbitrary actions of Raja who even misled Dr Singh and as such the prime minister cannot be blamed as he offered himself for questioning and made the Prime Minister's Office provide every document the PAC sought to facilitate its probe.

The 270-page draft, leaked within hours of the PAC's 22 members getting it for the final meeting on Thursday, also comes down heavily on the then finance minister P Chidambaram for writing to the prime minister to treat the matter closed despite acknowledging that spectrum is a scarce resource and the price of spectrum should be based on its scarcity value and efficiency of usage.

It wants the matter probed in its entirety on the unusual act of Chidambaram who should have initiated 'stringent and swift action against all those responsible for the whopping losses to the exchequer' as the guardian of the public exchequer and entrusted with the principal task of mobilisation of resources for public welfare.

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Image: Former telecom minister A Raja.
Photographs: Reuters
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The draft also squarely blames the PMO for letting Raja award spectrum and licences for mobile telephony by not presenting his communication to Dr Singh in time and not placing the matter before the Union Cabinet despite differences among ministers.

The licences were already issued by the time the file was put up before the Prime Minister and hence he could not do anything on the justification given by Raja for adopting the first-come-first served principle to favour a selected few.

Joshi's draft concludes that the prime minister was not kept in the loop by his own office as he would have stepped in to stop the licences but for the delay in getting the information. It says Raja took undue advantage of the delay in rushing with allotment of the licences by the time the fact was presented to the prime minister.

The draft, that ought to get the stamp of the PAC as the final report because of the Opposition's majority, accepts the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore loss to the national exchequer in the faulty allocation process. The PAC examined the CAG report paragraph by paragraph.

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Photographs: Reuters
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It also recommends that the future licences should be rolled out through the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, though there may be differences on this since the authority is supposed to regulate and cannot usurp the implementation powers of the Department of Telecommunication.

The draft also refers to some of the tapes of phone conversations of lobbyist Niira Radia who was summoned to appear before the PAC on the same day top industrialist Ratan Tata was called.

It says: "The Radia tapes reveal the tip of the iceberg and provide glimpses of the often unreported backroom deals, shady trade offs, role of middlemen, quid pro quos between lobbyists and certain journalists, insatiable greed for wealth, etc."

Joshi has also cast aspersions on Ratan Tata for the letter he sent to DMK supremo M Karunanidhi through Radia, praising work done by his party's nominee A Raja in the Union ministry.

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Photographs: Reuters
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The Congress and DMK members are up in arms over Dr Joshi circulating the draft report, ignoring their protests that the PAC has still not examined all aspects of the 2G scam and as such the probe cannot be wound up with the findings he wants to slam down their throats.

They are left with no option but to write their dissent notes, though a Congress member on the PAC said the meeting slated on Thursday will be stormy as every effort will be made to scuttle finalisation of the report.

Joshi has, however, affirmed in the covering letter of the draft report that the PAC's work can not be extended beyond its term that ends on April 30 and sending it to the next PAC to be constituted would only amount to examining the issues de novo.

He cited Rule 311(2) of the Rules of Procedures and Conduct of Business of Lok Sabha that does not permit a PAC to continue beyond its one-year term.

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Photographs: Reuters
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He has also stressed that the PAC works under a constitutional mandate and as such its probe into the 2G scam cannot be abandoned without a report, just because the House has constituted a Joint Parliamentary Committee for the probe in its last session.

He also referred to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar ruling that the role of PAC cannot be diluted even though the JPC's inquiry into the same issue is on.

Sources said Joshi could have carried over the 2G scam probe to the next PAC since he is bound to be its chairman again as the practice goes.

He, however, did not want to take a chance since it is a prerogative of the Speaker to name the chairman.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Moreover, he did not expect any further progress from the way the ruling members had completely blocked further proceedings since early this month on the pretext of duplication of work already being done by the JPC and not allowing the questioning of some of the officials who were issued notices only with their consent.

The Congress and DMK members first prevented deposition of Attorney General Goolam Vahanvati, Cabinet Secretary K M Chandrasekhar and prime minister's principal secretary TKA Nair and then insisted that the PAC probe would be incomplete unless all those nabbed by the Central Bureau of Investigation are also interrogated.

The DMK, however, had own misgivings when the Congress members last week pressed for summoning Raja on the ground that he is the main 'hero' of the whole scandal and the PAC probe would remain incomplete without probing him.

Joshi, however, rejected the demand on the ground that the PAC was left with no time to summon anybody and particularly Raja who is in the judicial custody and will take long time to get him before the committee.


Image: A Raja.
Photographs: Reuters
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