Chacko refuses to quit as JPC chairman; speaker backs him

P C Chacko, chairman of the joint parliamentary panel that looked into the allocation of second generation radio spectrum in 2008, has rejected opposition demand that he quit as chairman of the panel or that he be removed from the position for bringing out a partisan report that tried to cover up the wrongdoings of his party men.

Chacko, on the other hand, claimed that the opposition was showing disregard to parliamentary procedures and norms by demanding his resignation from a committee appointed by Parliament. He also said the speaker has no power to remove him as chairman of the joint parliamentary committee.

Chacko flayed the opposition demand saying there was no rule under which the speaker could remove him as JPC chairman. ''There is no precedent of the presiding officer removing the chairman of a parliamentary committee," the Indian Express quoted him as saying.

Meanwhile, Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar today rejected opposition leader Sushma Swraj's demand for the removal of Chacko as chairman of Joint Parliamentary Committee on 2G spectrum allocation. She also advised opposition members of the panel to let go of their differences and carry on with the work of the committee.

The JPC is now split with opposition members who form a majority in the panel now seeking a rejection of a partisan report and removal of Congressman P C Chacko as the panel's chairman.

In fact, the speaker has written to the aggrieved members of the JPC rejecting their call for Chacko's removal, reportedly stating that the rules did not provide for the same.

The speaker has also rejected a similar demand from Congress MPs for the removal of BJP's Yashwant Sinha, Jaswant Singh and Ravishankar Prasad as JPC members on grounds of "conflict of interest" in their continuance in the panel.

Chacko, meanwhile, cited the instance of Sushma Swraj seeking the removal of Jaswant Singh as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee after the latter ceased to be a member of the BJP following the row over his authorship of a book on Jinnah. While the speaker refused to oblige, Jaswant Singh himself offered to quit.

Chacko said the same applied to his case as well. "Similarly, the only way I can get out of this position is by putting in my papers," Chacko said.

"I am surprised at their rejection of the draft report without having discussed it. It is not my report. It has been prepared by the secretariat and members are free to move amendments. By seeking my ouster, they are only trying to create a situation in which the JPC lapses," he said.

Opposition members argue that without examining key witnesses including the then telecom minister A Raja, finance minister P Chidambaram and prime minister Manmohan Singh, there could be no substance in the JPC report.

On this demanded by SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, Chacko said, "Raja cannot be called. He is an accused, and I am sure my friends in the panel who are lawyers would understand that the evidence of an accused is of no value."

With the opposition rejecting the draft JPC report and the Lok Sabha failing to transact any business during the second half of the budget session, there is no way that the draft is adopted.

Even for an extension of the term, the JPC would have to hold a meeting wherein members authorise the chairman to seek an extension. This too is unlikely with the majority ganged against the chairman.

If the report is not tabled in Parliament by 10 May and no extension of the JPC is sought, the committee will lose its mandate as well.