JPC chief to refer to LS Speaker for calling FM

Chacko rejects BJP plea to summon Manmohan

Even as the BJP continues to demand summoning of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P Chidambaram as witnesses before the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) in the 2G spectrum allotment case, panel chairman P C Chacko on Thursday decided to refer  the Lok Sabha Speaker on calling only the finance minister.

Ruling out summoning the Prime Minister, Chacko said there is no past precedent of calling the PM and “I don’t want to set any new precedent”.

"According to past precedents and rules, members of a committee pass an unanimous resolution to call a minister. The request is then sent to the Speaker for a final ruling as rules do not permit summoning a minister before a committee for either giving evidence or consultations. But in this case, since there is no unanimity on calling the finance minister, matter will be referred to the Speaker, Chacko told reporters after the meeting.

The chairman has decided to refer the issue to the Speaker after six BJP members, who had been boycotting meetings  accused Chacko of not taking a decision on their demand to call Singh and Chidambaram.

Upping his ante against Chacko on Wednesday, senior party leader Yashwant Sinha wrote a strong letter to Chacko on behalf of his six party members suggesting that the BJP was open to summoning any former minister in the previous Atal Behari Vajpayee-led NDA government as  witnesses before the Committee, including those who are members of the JPC.

Yashwant Sinha himself and Jaswant Singh, both members of the panel, were also ministers in the Vajpayee government.

“Similarly, the ministers of the UPA government, including the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister, must be called as witnesses. Your prevarication on this issue only confirms our suspicion that you have no intention of doing so," Sinha stated.

Responding to the letter, Chacko said except for the BJP, no other member has demanded calling the prime minister as witness. The panel has to go by majority and nobody should dictate terms, he said, adding that he had already replied to the letter.

CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta also demanded the summoning of the finance minster.
Interestingly, the Left and the BJP appeared to be on the same page as CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta walked out of the JPC’s Thursday meeting accusing Congress member Shashi Tharoor of defending a witness "against the procedures" of the panel.

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