Expressing "anguish" over the raging controversy in the JPC probing the 2G scam, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar today rejected the Opposition demand for the removal of JPC Chairman P C Chacko and suggested a resolution of the logjam through "majority of votes".
Kumar also turned down the plea of some Congress members that BJP leaders Yashwant Sinha, Jaswant Singh and Ravi Shankar Prasad, should be barred from attending proceedings of the panel as they were instrumental in the decision-making process related to telecom between 1998 and 2004.
Noting that the faith reposed by Parliament is betrayed by trading allegations against each other, the Speaker said "It is, therefore, necessary for the Chairman and the members to sink their differences and present a report as mandated by Parliament."
The Speaker pointed out that in any case, Rule 261 provides that all questions and sittings of a committee shall be determined by a "majority of votes" of the members present and voting.
"All contentious issues can, therefore, be resolved by the Committee having recourse to this Rule," she said.
15 members from Opposition parties including from former UPA allies DMK and Trinamool Congress, had earlier written separate letters to the Speaker contending that they have "no confidence" in the JPC Chairman and had appealed to her to immediately replace him with another member of the panel on allocation and pricing of telecom licences and spectrum.
Countering the allegations, the JPC members belonging to Congress had also written to the Speaker refuting the charges levelled by the Opposition members.
Six Congress members in the 30-member panel including E M S Natchiappan, had on April 25 written to the Speaker that Sinha, Singh and Prasad were instrumental in decision-making process related to telecom policy and hence, it would not be fair to allow them to sit on judgement on their own decisions.
Noting that the question of replacing the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) Chairman has been examined in the light of the existing rules and the past practice in this regard, Kumar said "...Due to absence of express provisions in the rules, it will be difficult to remove the chairman of any parliamentary committee."
Responding to the Congress members' demand for removal of the three BJP leaders from the panel, Kumar said membership of the Council of Ministers during the earlier period would not constitute any personal, pecuniary or direct interest unless such members have some other personal, pecuniary or direct interest.
"Hence, these members are not barred from taking part in the proceedings of the Committee," the Speaker held.
She also pointed out that when Jaswant Singh was removed from BJP, he continued to be the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) despite BJP asking her to remove him from the post.
The Speaker said, "In view of the above, I urge upon the Chairman and the members of the JPC to work out an agreeable solution to end the current impasse and produce a report after adopting the same according to rules, place it before Parliament."
Asking the Chairman and the members to sort out their differences, Kumar reminded them that Parliament in its wisdom, has entrusted to the Chairman and the members of JPC the responsibility of examining the issues relating to allocation and pricing of telecom licences and spectrum and to report back within a specified time-frame.
"I have read the letters with great anguish. From a perusal of the letters, it is evident that there appears to be a difference of opinion among the members of the JPC both in the functioning of the JPC as well as in the matter of the draft report, which was circulated for adoption and which has led to rival claims for the removal of the Chairman, rejection of the draft report and disallowing certain members from taking part in the adoption of the report," she said.