Govt ready for JPC probe, says Antony

Govt ready for JPC probe, says Antony

Govt ready for JPC probe, says Antony

With choppergate hitting the ruling United Progressive Alliance coalition hard ahead of the budget session of Parliament, the government on Tuesday said it was open to a probe by a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) into the Rs 3,600-crore deal that allegedly involved kickbacks close to Rs 350 crore.

“We are open to a JPC on the chopper deal,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said here, making it clear that all options would be open to counter the Opposition even as the government stood by defence minister A K Antony, who is at the receiving end of the onslaught.

Antony, defending himself, said there was no question of resignation. He expressed his readiness to face Parliament and a detailed discussion as the government had nothing to hide. “But I am upset because, in spite of taking every precaution, something happened somewhere,” he said.

If Parliament agrees to constitute a JPC, it will be the sixth probe into the murky helicopter deal, which is being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigations, Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax authorities.

In addition, Central Vigilance Commission has asked for the files on the helicopter deal and Comptroller and Auditor General was scrutinising the contract signed between the defence ministry and AgustaWestland, a UK-based subsidiary of Italian aerospace major Finmeccanica, in 2010. Both companies are under the scanner and their chief executive officers were arrested.

Antony said the Defence Ministry had not only stopped payment to the tainted firm but also put the procurement on hold. Close to 45 per cent of the payment has been made in two instalments.

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