A Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) constituted on March 4, 2011 to examine matters relating to Allocation and Pricing of Telecom Licences and Spectrum during 1998-2009 submitted its report to the Lok Sabha Speaker on October 29, 2013. The report of the committee is on expected lines, mainly targeting the then Telecom Minister D Raja, review of policy and formation of stringent guidelines on allocation of additional spectrum, inability to calculate any losses to the treasury and acquitting the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P Chidambaram of any wrongdoing. The committee failed in attaining purpose on many fronts. But the larger question is can anything substantial be expected from the farce of JPC. Unfortunately, the answer is BIG NO.
Firstly, when there was a series of communication between the Prime Minister and the Telecom Minister, with the constitutional principle of collective responsibility, how PM can be out of indictment. The issue of involvement of the Finance Minister is more serious as his recommendation to controversial sale of equity of Swan and Unitech to foreign companies was crucial in this matter. If the Government was clean on this matter, why the top two people did not even appear before the committee? On the issue of losses to the exchequer, pronouncement of report is contradictory. It calculates the losses occurred during the NDA regime while rejecting the losses calculated in the CAG report. There is something mysterious which the JPC headed by the Congress MP and tacitly supported by the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party representatives in the committee as an apparent deal to loosen investigation against their supremos. The use of JPC was entirely political to save face of the Government.
The irony is this is not the first JPC which turned out to be a futile exercise. It was Rajiv Gandhi who came up with this idea of forming an ad hoc committee called JPC to investigate the Bofors Scandal in August 1987. The JPC had a majority of Congress members and therefore boycotted by the Opposition and later rejected in the Parliament. The second JPC was formed in August 1992 to investigate Harshad Mehta Stock Market Scam, the recommendations were neither accepted in full nor implemented. To investigate the Ketan Parekh Share Market Scam another JPC was formed in April 2001, whose recommendations were diluted in implementation. Even after 10 years, no action has been taken on the fourth JPC set-up in August 2003 to look into pesticide residues in soft drinks, fruit juice and other beverages and to set safety standards. The 2G Spectrum allocation was the fifth such instance of waste of public money. There is another JPC which was supposed to give its report in three months time on the VVIP Chopper Scam, is all set to meet the same fate.
The nature of JPC is such that it is chaired by a member of the ruling party or coalition and the same group have majority. So the investigation is neither impartial not conclusive. The CBI which is already under scanner for lop-sided investigation not able to work autonomously and transparently under present dispensation. In this scenario, perhaps, the only achievement of the JPC is, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be counted in the same rank of former Congress Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who carried the ghost of ‘inconclusive allegations of corruption’ in Bofors.