2G scam probe: Parliamentary panel meets today, BJP will attend

2G scam probe: Parliamentary panel meets today, BJP will attend
New Delhi: The Joint Parliamentary Committee that's studying the allocation and pricing of the 2G spectrum between 1998 and 2009 is meeting today. And ending its boycott, the BJP will attend today's meeting - two of the party's leaders Yashwant Sinha and Jaswant Singh will be present in the meeting.

The BJP, which has six members on the panel, had stayed away from the last two meetings of the JPC demanding that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Finance Minister P Chidambaram be called to depose before the panel. Panel's chief and Congress leader PC Chacko had, however, said there was no question of summoning the Prime Minister.

"There is no precedence of calling the Prime Minister as a witness before JPCs," Mr Chacko said yesterday. He also said that the decision to summon Mr Chidambaram would be "based on consensus".

Mr Chacko said that the Opposition should explain why they are boycotting the meetings.

The Cellular Association of India will today depose before the parliamentary panel.

During the meeting of the JPC last month, a senior bureaucrat had said that in December 2007, he wrote to the Prime Minister suggesting that mobile network licenses be sold for Rs. 36,000 crore each to telecoms. The licenses, however, were sold a month later for Rs. 1600 crore each and the manner in which they were allotted led to then Telecom Minister A Raja spending nearly a year in jail.

K M Chandrashekhar was then the Cabinet Secretary. His disclosure about his letter allowed the Opposition BJP and the Left to reiterate that the Prime Minister was aware that 2G airwaves and mobile licenses were worth a lot more than what they were being sold for. The party says that Finance Minister P Chidambaram and the Prime Minister must testify for the group to explain why they did not intervene to prevent Mr Raja from blatantly bending the rules. Mr Sinha had written a letter to Mr Chacko in October expressing his unhappiness over the fact that the panel has not yet called Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or P Chidambaram as witnesses.

The parliamentary committee was created as the Supreme Court began monitoring the telecom scam which is being investigated by the CBI. The premise of the swindle is that Mr Raja ignored advice - including from the Prime Minister - to auction spectrum. He gave airwaves at no cost along with under-priced licenses to firms who he pushed to the front of a long line of applicants. In February this year, the Supreme Court cancelled 122 of the licenses issued by him; they will now be distributed by the government via an auction.