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Government likely to agree to JPC

By Renu Mittal
February 09, 2011 01:01 IST
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With the government inches closer to the setting up of a Joint Parliamentary Committee after the Congress party reportedly took a decision that enough damage had been done by Parliament being stalled and a signal filtering across that the government had something to hide, sources said that the modalities of how this has to be done are still to be worked out.

The leaders of the Trinmool Congress, Nationalist Congress Party and Communist Party of India-Marxist are privately claiming that the government is likely to agree to a JPC.

The Bharatiya Janata Party still insists that the government should first announce the setting up of the JPC and only after that would they allow a discussion in the house, the Left parties and the Samajwadi Party have agreed with the government's line that there should first be a discussion and followed by the setting up a JPC. Both the Left and the SP do not want a vote on the resolution.

A Congress leader explained that since the JPC is a committee of parliament it can only be set up by a resolution of the House with the Speaker then announcing the setting up of the committee in the House. The leader of the Lok Sabha Pranab Mukherjee has made it clear that a JPC cannot be announced outside the House as it would be a breach of privilege.

Another meeting would be called just before Parliament meets on February 21, when the final contours of this resolution would be worked out with the government using the opportunity to discuss with the opposition leaders on the best way to break the impasse.

Pranab Mukherjee told the meeting, "there is no price dearer than running of parliament" in what is a clear indication that the government may well be on the way to accommodating the demand for a JPC.

Congress party leaders concede that the demand for a JPC should have been

agreed upon on day one as the bjp has managed to get mileage out of this and are looking to be in the driver's seat.

What is of significance in this is how the prime minister would react and whether the decision to go in for a JPC further undermines his position as it is PMO officials who had been instrumental in blocking the JPC in the first round.

Sources say that a senior PMO official pulled up Union Law Minister Veerapa Moily over the new ISRO S-band controversy where the PMO has gone into denial mode saying there has been no allocation of spectrum but it is alleged that a contract was signed between ISRO and a private firm Devas.

Sources said in June 2010, the Department of Space asked the law secretary T K Vishwanath for a legal opinion asking whether the contract can be terminated to which he gave the opinion that "yes it can be" terminated. The PMO now wanted to know about the legal opinion and wanted a copy of it which was found with great difficulty by the officials.

The PMO officials were allegedly livid at Moily as to why the information was not brought to their notice. Certain quarters suspect that the story was leaked to the newspapers by the law ministry whilst others suspect it to be the handiwork of the CAG.

Sources say that the fact remains that despite legal opinion and despite ISRO itself pushing for scrapping of the deal, it was not done by the government. With the prime minister in charge of the department of space, the issue is even more embarrassing, even as the then MOS in the ministry at the time, Prithviraj Chavan admitted that the contract was signed.

The BJP wants to bring The ISRO Devas deal under the ambit of the JPC investigation and with pressure mounting on the governmenmt, it certainly looks as though the PMO has a lot of explaining to do, say party sources.

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Renu Mittal in New Delhi
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