Two days after senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha asked him to appear before the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) looking into the spectrum allocation issue,Prime Minister Manmohan Singh practically rejected the demand,while maintaining that it was for the committee and its chairman to decide who would appear as witnesses.
The Prime Minister said in his reply to Sinha that all pertinent records and documents available with the government have already been placed at the disposal of the JPC.
I have said from the beginning that neither the government nor I have anything to hide in this matter, he added. However,what evidence should be sought and which individuals should be asked to appear before the JPC is a matter that needs to be decided internally by the JPC and its chairman,he said.
JPC chairman P C Chacko,on the other hand,turned down Sinhas demand,pointing out the committee had got past that phase. We have passed that phase, Chacko said,underlining that he was busy preparing draft report after having unanimously so mandated by the committee.
The JPC chief said the panel had to follow the procedure laid while calling people as witnesses. There is no question of calling the Prime Minister or any minister merely because somebody is making a statement, he said,adding that the rules barred a parliamentary committee from calling a minister.
In case a JPC did want to call a minister,it had to first take a unanimous decision and then forward a request to this effect to the Lok Sabha Speaker. A minister can be called by a parliamentary committee only after the permission of the Speaker, he said.
Chacko had taken on Sinha on Tuesday,describing his demand for calling the Prime Minister as a political stunt. Chacko had cited parliamentary norms and wondered how could a member of the JPC write a letter to the Prime Minister? It is for the committee to take a decision, he had said.
The Opposition BJP,according to him,had five members in the committee and they could very well raise the matter and then the committee could take a call. Sinhas action,he felt,amounted to a denigration of the committee.