In a shot in the arm for the BJP, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar has ruled in favour of its leaders Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha continuing in the joint parliamentary committee to probe the 2G scam.
The Speaker’s ruling came in response to a reference from JPC chairman PC Chacko on whether there was a conflict of interest if MPs who were ministers in governments in the period under probe — between 1998 and 2009 — were members of the panel, HT has learnt.
Singh and Sinha were ministers in the BJP-led NDA governments during the period. At the JPC’s first meeting on March 24, Congress, Trinamool Congress and the Left parties had raised questions on their presence in the panel.
“The Speaker has cited the relevant rules of procedure and conduct of business in Lok Sabha in her ruling to conclude that unless a specific objection is pinpointed, a general query on members having been ministers in the past cannot be a ground for debarring them from committees,” said a source.
Though Chacko had not named the BJP leaders in his letter to the Speaker, he had gone public in defence of his move saying that since objections were raised over the two leaders, he was duty-bound to refer the matter to the Speaker.
Sinha held the finance portfolio between 1998 and 2003, while Singh was the foreign minister and headed the GoM that dealt with the telecom policy. Later, both swapped their portfolios and the kept their ministerial berths till the NDA government was voted out in 2004.
The terms of reference of the JPC include examining “the telecom policy prescriptions by successive governments, including decisions of the Union Cabinet in the allocation and pricing of telecom licences and spectrum from 1998 to 2009”. The main objection was Singh and Sinha cannot sit in judgment over the decisions taken by the Cabinet as they had been a part of it.
The Speaker has given three reasons for her ruling. “The JPC members were unanimously elected by the House which was fully aware of the positions held by them in the past, the committee will benefit with their presence and no specific instance of conflict of interest has been pointed out,” she ruled.
She had earlier asked Chacko and Public Accounts Committee chairman Murli Manohar Joshi to work in harmony.