Following the Supreme Court’s verdict Friday on the Rafale deal, the Opposition stepped up its demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the billion dollar deal signed between the NDA government and France’s Dassault Aviation. The Court had dismissed petitions seeking a court-monitored probe into the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets. The Opposition has alleged irregularities in the deal.
What is a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC)?
A Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) is set up to examine a particular bill presented before the Parliament, or for the purpose of investigating cases of financial irregularities in any government activity. The JPC, an ad-hoc body, is set up for a given period of time and is aimed at addressing a specific issue.
In order to set up a JPC, a motion is passed in one House and supported by the other House. The committee’s members are decided by Parliament. The number of members can vary. There are twice as many Lok Sabha members as the Rajya Sabha.
A JPC is authorised to collect evidence in oral or written form or demand documents in connection with the matter. The proceedings and findings of the committee are confidential, except in matters of public interest. The government can take the decision to withhold a document if it is considered prejudicial to the safety or interest of the State.
The Speaker has the final word in case of a dispute over calling for evidence.
The committee can invite interested parties for inquiry and summon people to appear before it. In the usual course of proceedings, the committee does not summon ministers to give evidence.
The committee gets disbanded following the submission of its report to Parliament.
Demand for JPC probe into Rafale deal
The Opposition has been demanding an inquiry by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) into the Rafale deal, which they also pressed for in the on-going winter session of Parliament.
After the Supreme Court dismissed petitions seeking a probe into the Rafale deal, Congress president Rahul Gandhi reiterated his allegation of corruption and argued that if a JPC probe is conducted, the names of Modi and industrialist Anil Ambani will come out.
Further, the 29-page ruling by the bench of the Chief Justice of India mentioned pricing details of the Rafale jets was shared with the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India which, in turn, shared its report with the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). However, PAC chairman Mallikarjun Kharge denied having received any such report yet and “neither does the CAG know about it”.
Past JPC probes
So far, the Joint Parliamentary Committees have been set up seven times to probe various matters including the Bofors Contract in 1987, irregularities in securities and banking transactions in 1992, 2G spectrum scam in 2011, VVIP Chopper Scam in 2013. The last time a committee was set up in 2015 for the purpose of examination of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Second Amendment) Bill and was chaired by SS Ahluwalia.