NDA govt's telecom policy comes under JPC scanner

Headed by Congress leader P C Chacko, the JPC, which met for the second time on Wednesday, also decided to summon the then Attorney General Soli Sorabjee for grilling. The Committee discussed the matters related to the telecom policy, allocation of spectrum and its pricing between 1998 and 2008.

Telecom Secretary R Chandrashekhar, who appeared before the 30-member Committee, gave a detailed briefing on the issue tracing the history of the present telecom policy.
Several members raised pointed questions on the changes in telecom policy during the NDA rule that allowed operators to migrate from fixed license fee regime to the revenue sharing model.

Briefing media after the meeting, Chacko said the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report of 2000 clearly stated that the change in policy had caused a "huge loss" to the exchequer. The CAG had then expressed its inability to quantify the losses and details of the license fees and concession offered to operators in the wake of migration policy were not available, he said.

"Since the figures are available now, the Committee has directed the Telecom Secretary to quantify the losses," Chacko said. Noting that the Cabinet decision of July 6, 1999 to change the policy was based on the advise of the then Attorney General Soli Sorabjee, the Committee has decided to call him as a witness.

In reply to a question, Chacko said technically there was no bar on calling panel members as witnesses. He was referring to BJP leaders Yashwant Sinha and Jaswant Singh, who are members of the JPC and were part of the NDA Cabinet when the decision was taken. "So far we have not felt the need to call cabinet ministers," he said.
DH News Service

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