The meeting of the JPC, looking into 2G scam, was stormy as soon as it began with members questioning the non-submission of the March 25 note of the finance ministry which suggested that P Chidambaram as finance minister in 2008 should have insisted on auctioning of 2G spectrum to prevent the scam.
The matter was raised by Left members Gurudas Dasgupta and Sitaram Yechury with BJP members following suit in demanding a discussion on the "new developments". Congress members initially opposed it but came around later, sources claimed.
"The committee expressed displeasure on the failure on part of the Department of Economic Affairs to submit the note dated March 25, 2011," JPC Chairman P C Chacko said in New Delhi. He said Finance Secretary R S Gujral and R Gopalan, secretary, department of economic affairs have been asked to appear before the Committee on October 12 to explain why the note was not made available to the panel.
In a rare move, the committee also decided to write to the department of telecom, cabinet secretariat, ministries of finance, law and corporate affairs, the Planning Commission as well as the Prime Minister's Office to provide with "all relevant information" available with them pertaining to the 2G issue and submit affidavits in this regard.
"We have found that an important document was not available to the Committee. In the future we do not want a repeat of this to happen," Chacko said. "They (departments and ministries) have been asked to furnish an affidavit as we do not want any department to hold back information."
He insisted that the committee was well within its rights to seek an affidavit from the government. "Every committee can make its own rules. We are setting a healthy precedent for other committees to follow. We do not want to grope in darkness," the JPC chief said to a volley of questions on the legality of the move.
"We have taken a decision because we feel that a Parliamentary Committee is competent to ask for an affidavit," he said. Asked whether the move could be challenged in court, Chacko said usually the proceedings of parliamentary committees are not questioned in court. "But if it is, we will face the music," he quipped.
Though the controversial note is a recent document, it pertains to the period (2008) being examined by the JPC as per its terms of reference, Chacko said.
The JPC is looking into matters relating to allocation and pricing of telecom licences and spectrum between 1998 and 2009. At Tuesday's meeting, Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India- Marxist is understood to have said that the non-submission of the note by the finance ministry to the committee as a "serious act", if committed inadvertently.
He said it would be "breach of privilege" if the note had been withheld deliberately by the finance ministry when it was asked by the JPC to submit to it all the documents related to the 2G spectrum allocation.