JPC probing 2G scam gets time till May 2012

The panel, formed in February, was tasked to complete its probe by the end of the monsoon session that ends this week.  JPC head P.C. Chacko of the Congress moved a motion in the Lok Sabha, seeking the extension for the presentation of the probe report till the last day of the next budget session.

The motion was adopted and passed by a voice vote. The 30-member probe panel has so far examined officials of the finance ministry, current and former officials of the telecom department, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and some former telecom secretaries.

It held its first meeting March 24 for an internal discussion and has met for 15 times since. Most of the sittings were for briefings by serving civil servants, who apprised the panel members about various technical and financial aspects of the spectrum allocation and mobile phone technology.

It was only on July 8 - the 11th sitting -- that the 30-member committee examined its first witness, M.S. Verma who headed the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) from March 2000 to March 2003.

The other witnesses the panel has examined are former telecom secretaries A.V. Gokak and Anil Kumar. The questioning of Anil Kumar is scheduled to continue in the 16th meeting Wednesday. There are over 85 names on the witnesses list. These include former communications ministers, telecom officials and private mobile phone service providers who were given licences to use expensive and scarce radio waves.

The documents that the panel has to go through -- to understand and probe the telecom pricing policy for over a decade -- are also large in number. The first extension means that the report would be submitted by the end of the budget session next year. That means, the report may not be adopted by parliament before the monsoon session next year.

The committee has decided to examine politicians, including former telecom ministers, towards the end of its proceedings. The panel, to investigate policies of successive governments from 1998 to 2009 in allocation and pricing of telecom licences, was set up Feb 25 after persistent demands from opposition members.

The alleged scam surfaced after a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India alleged that the then communications minister A. Raja, now jailed, had sold the scarce spectrum to private firms at throwaway prices, causing a presumptive loss of Rs.1.76 lakh to the nation.

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