New Delhi: In an unprecedented move, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) members in the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have rejected a draft report prepared by panel chairman Murli Manohar Joshi on irregularities in the allocation of the second-generation (2G) spectrum licences.
Heated arguments among the panel members and accusations led Joshi, a member of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to walk out of the committee meeting on Thursday.
In his absence, 11 of the 21 members in PAC rejected the draft report in a voting. The report criticizes various government departments including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s office and home minister P. Chidambaram for failing to prevent the irregularities.
The Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, which extend conditional backing to the UPA and have one member each in the panel, gave their crucial votes against the report.
Members of the Congress, which leads the UPA government at the Centre, and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, a key alliance partner, sought Joshi’s resignation on Wednesday for coming out with what they said was a biased report.
The Congress has repeatedly said PAC should not look into the 2G scam as a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) has been constituted to probe into the matter.
BJP’s Kalraj Mishra, a member of PAC, accused the ruling party of derailing the investigation into the scam that is estimated to have caused the national exchequer a loss of Rs1.76 trillion.
PAC members who attended the stormy meeting said members belong to the ruling party asked Congress leader Saifuddin Soz to chair the committee after Joshi left and move the resolution for voting.
Parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Bansal said as the draft report has been rejected, another PAC cannot probe into the 2G telecom scam. “Soz will be sending the recorded votes against the Joshi report to the Speaker... Now, it is for JPC only to look into the issue.”
Constitutional expert Subhash Kashyap said the rejection of the report was constitutionally invalid as Soz being a Rajya Sabha member in PAC cannot chair its meeting. Rajya Sabha members in PAC, a financial panel, are only associate members, he said. Joshi can still submit his report along with notes from members with differing views, he added.
Kashyap, a former secretary general of the Lok Sabha, said PAC members had “made a joke of Parliamentary norms.”
This would further damage the ruling Congress’ image, which has been tarnished by a series of corruption charges and controversies, he added. A Congress leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, agreed and said such moves would be damaging to the institutions.
Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president of the Centre for Policy Research, a Delhi-based think tank, said on Wednesday the public dispute in PAC would “undermine the credibility of political class, Parliament and institutions.”