New Delhi: The joint parliamentary committee (JPC) on second-generation radio spectrum allocation in 2008, which submitted its controversial report to Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, says that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was misled by the “ministry of communications and information technology about the procedure decided to be followed by department of telecommunications in respect of issuance of UAS licences".

UAS stands for unified access services. A permit holder can provide wired as well as wireless services in a service area.

The report, submitted by committee chairman P.C. Chacko, said that the then minister for communications and information technology, A. Raja, a Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party leader, assured “in all his correspondence" with the Prime Minister that the ministry had maintained “full transparency in following established rules and procedures".

In what could invite more criticism from opposition parties and has the prospects to trigger uproarious scenes in Parliament’s winter session, Chacko has edited the dissent notes submitted by members belonging to opposition parties.

“Certain phrases and expressions and sentences in the dissent notes were not in accordance with the rules... I was constrained to expunge certain provisions in the dissent note," Chacko said.

There were seven dissent notes, including one jointly signed by six members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Eleven opposition members, including BJP’s five and one each of Biju Janata Dal, Trinamool Congress, Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India-Marxist, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and DMK voted against the JPC report. BJP’s Gopinath Munde had not attended the meeting.

In his dissent note sent to the speaker, BJP leader Yashwant Sinha has said: “It is regretted that in spite of voluminous evidence on record before the committee, the final report chose not to fix responsibility of the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), finance minister and many others. Our note of dissent is designed to ensure that the political accountability of this massive scam is clearly determined an fixed against all the guilty so that it serves as a lesson for the future."

The report also said that finance minister P. Chidambaram’s decision on spectrum pricing was the fulfilment of a cabinet decision taken on 31 October 2003, under the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) regime.

The report, to which opposition party members of Parliament have dissented mainly against its decision of not asking either Singh or Chidambaram to depose before the panel, also questioned the figure mentioned by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of a notional loss of 1.76 trillion to the exchequer due to irregularities.

“One could hardly find precedents where the loss figures were calculated by the CAG in such a varying range as in the case of audit report," the report says.

The panel suggested that the recommendations made by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) need to be accorded due weightage by the government. The government “should decisively respond to the recommendations of Trai within a specific time frame as it is mandatory for Trai to respond to reference by the government within 60 days."

It said the Trai Act should be “suitably amended to incorporate provisions to ensure that a harmonious balance is maintained between the regulator and the licensor in the matter of treating the recommendations from Trai."

Finding fault in the functioning of the department of telecommunications (DoT) under the NDA government, the committee’s report says the government’s decision in 1998 to extend the licence period from 10 to 15 years that provided interim relief to cellular operators was based on a report of ICICI Bank Ltd, which had direct interest in the matter.

“The government of the day acted in haste without waiting for professional input from BICP, thereby showing indulgence to the defaulting operators," the report says. BICP is short for Bureau of Industrial Costs and Prices.

Pointing out that the national telecom policy of 1994 did not yield the desired results, the report said there was large-scale default and the outstanding dues of permit fee was over 3.1 crore till December 1998.

“DoT abysmally failed to administer the new licensing regime, which was largely at variance with the growth path visualized under the aegis of the first telecom policy," the reports says.

The 30-member panel has also recommended that the issue of pricing of spectrum should have an “in-depth review by the regulator and a policy decision in the government at the highest level", and that there should be stringent guidelines on allocation of additional spectrum.

Gyan Verma contributed to this story.

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