The government seems to have made up its mind to set up a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) to look into the 2G spectrum scam although an announcement would be made on the floor of the House after modalities are worked out with the opposition parties.
Once the loose ends are tied up, the government will bring—possibly a day after Parliament opens on February 21 for the budget session — a motion in the Lok Sabha saying that the House constitute a committee of members of the two Houses to look into the allocation of 2G spectrum and the consequences and irregularities thereof.
This has been among three contentious issues that had needed sorting out—who will bring the motion in the House, what would be its terms of reference and whether or not the setting of the JPC should be accompanied by a debate.
The opposition, which has been insisting on a JPC, has been demanding that the government bring such a motion. This would ensure that that the motion is carried through by the House.
During the washed out winter session, the Congress had dared the opposition to follow up on their insistence on a JPC by bringing such a motion. But the opposition refused to bite the bullet knowing that the ruling combine could defeat it.
Keen to get Parliament to function, the government, which was earlier against a JPC, has mellowed to the idea. “We need to have a JPC to clear the air and dispel the impression that impression that the opposition is trying to create about us—that we have something to hide,’’ said a Congress leader who did not want to be named.
There is speculation that the JPC issue figured in Monday’s meeting of the Congress Core Group—which includes Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi—though there was no word on what transpired in it. Meanwhile, Speaker Meira Kumar has called an all party meeting on February 20.
Sources, however, did not see any problem in working out the terms of reference (ToR) for the panel. Although issues like the induction of a minister or allocation of portfolios may come up in the debate or during the panel’s hearings, they cannot form part of the ToR as they are part of the prime minister’s prerogative.
As part of give-and-take on the issue, they also do not see any problem in the opposition agreeing to a debate once the government brings a motion to set up a JPC. The ruling party, which is insisting on it, would like to use the occasion to take a potshot at the opposition after having been at the receiving end while the non-UPA parties would also make use of the opportunity to hurl charges at the government.
But there are indications that if and when the government agrees to a JPC, it would also set a time frame for the panel to give its report to prevent the opposition from using it as a stick to beat it with all the time.
Once the JPC goes into an issue it comes out with a set of recommendations for the government.
The JPC is likely to have 21 members (14 Lok Sabha and 7 Rajya Sabha ) or 30 members (20 Lok Sabha and 10 Rajya Sabha).