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Posted on 27 April 2011

PAC draft report indicts A Raja, clean chit to PM

Says scam was result of A Raja's arbitrary actions that even misled the Prime Minister

Iftikhar Gilani
New Delhi

[Download the PAC Report]  [Download the recomendation report of PAC]

Murli Manohar Joshi

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's offer to present himself for questioning appeared to have weighed in his favour as the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) gave him a clean chit in its draft report on the 2G spectrum allocation. The report indicted former telecom minister A Raja and sought fresh tenders for the 2G licences he had given for a song, and caused a loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer.

The report recommends that all 2G licences issued by Raja be scrapped and the existing licensees, who benefited illegally by his decisions, be imposed heavy penalty. It says these steps will not impinge upon the judicial inquiry set into motion for punishing the guilty.

The draft, dictated by veteran BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi as the PAC chair, has come as an embarrassment to his party that has been agitating inside and outside Parliament for the Prime Minister's resignation over the 2G scam. Other BJP leaders like former union minister Yashwant Sinha, who is a PAC member, squirmed at Joshi saying the PM is not to be blamed for the 2G scam.

Joshi has, however, insisted in his draft that the scam was a result of Raja’s arbitrary actions that even misled Singh. As such, the PM cannot be blamed especially after he said he would be available for questioning and made the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) provide all documents the PAC sought to facilitate its probe.


Excerpts From PAC Report
I am ready to appear before PAC: PM
‘Congress has something to hide, so it is avoiding a JPC’

The 270-page draft, leaked within hours of the PAC's 22 members receiving it for a final meeting on Thursday, also comes down heavily on then finance minister P Chidambaram for writing to the PM to treat the matter closed despite acknowledging that spectrum is a scarce resource and the price of spectrum should be based on its scarcity value and efficiency of usage.

The PAC wants the matter probed in its entirety on the unusual act of Chidambaram who should have initiated ‘stringent and swift action against all those responsible for the whopping losses to the exchequer’. The minister is a guardian of the public exchequer and is entrusted with the principal task of mobilisation of resources for public welfare, the PAC said.

The PAC also blames the PMO for letting Raja award the spectrum and mobile telephony licences by not presenting his communication to Singh in time and not placing the matter before the union cabinet despite differences among ministers.

Manmohan Singh

The licences were already issued and the file was sent to the PM. Therefore, he could not do anything on the justification given by Raja for adopting the first-come-first served principle to favour a selected few, the PAC report says.

Joshi's draft concludes that the PM was not kept in the know by his own office as he would have otherwise stepped in to stop the licences. It says Raja took undue advantage of the delay in rushing with allotment of the licences by the time the facts were presented to the Prime Minister.

The draft, that ought to get the stamp of the PAC as the final report because of the majority of Opposition members, accepts the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) figure of Rs 1.76 lakh crore loss to the national exchequer in the faulty allocation process. The PAC examined the CAG report paragraph by paragraph.

It also recommends that the future licences should be rolled out through the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), though there may be differences on this since the authority is supposed to regulate and cannot usurp the implementation powers of the Department of Telecommunication.

The draft also refers to some of the tapes of phone conversations of lobbyist Niira Radia who was summoned to appear before the PAC on the same day that top industrialist Ratan Tata was called. It says: "The Radia tapes reveal the tip of the iceberg and provide glimpses of the often unreported backroom deals, shady trade-offs, role of middlemen, quid pro quos between lobbyists and certain journalists, insatiable greed for wealth, etc."

A Raja

Joshi has also cast aspersions on Tata for the letter he sent to DMK supremo M Karunanidhi through Radia, praising the work done by Raja.

The Congress and DMK members are up in arms over Joshi circulating the draft report, ignoring their protests that the PAC has still not examined all aspects of the 2G scam and as such the probe cannot be wound up with the findings so far.

They are likely to write dissent notes, though a Congress member on the PAC said the meeting slated on Thursday would be stormy as efforts could be made to scuttle the report.

Joshi has, however, affirmed in the covering letter of the draft report that the PAC's work cannot be extended beyond its term that ends on April 30 and sending it to the next PAC to be constituted would only amount to examining the issues de novo. He cited Rule 311(2) of the Rules of Procedures and Conduct of Business of Lok Sabha that does not permit a PAC to continue beyond its one-year term.

He has also stressed that the PAC works under a constitutional mandate and as such its probe into the 2G scam cannot be abandoned without a report, just because the House has constituted a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) for the probe in its last session. He also referred to Speaker Meira Kumar ruling that the role of PAC cannot be diluted even though the JPC inquiry into the same issue is on.

Sources said Joshi could have carried over the 2G scam probe to the next PAC since he is bound to be its chairman again as the practice goes. He, however, did not want to take a chance since it is the Speaker’s prerogative to name the chairman.

Iftikhar Gilani is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.com.
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Posted on 27 April 2011



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