People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 50

December 12, 2010



Govt’s Obduracy Undermines

Constitutional Foundations



BY now, it is certain that this winter session of the parliament will end without any business being transacted. This is, indeed, unprecedented in the history of independent India.  It is also unprecedented that it is the ruling coalition that is responsible for jettisoning this session by obdurately refusing to constitute a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) to investigate the 2G spectrum scam – the biggest scam in independent India. 


We have been demanding the constitution of a JPC because this scam involves not merely graft in terms of siphoning off revenues that should have been due to government.  This scam involves a massive manipulation of our system that permits such a loot to take place.  These avenues for manipulation need to be plugged.  This can be done only on the basis of a thorough investigation that can recommend new regulations or, for that matter, new laws, if necessary.  In our constitutional scheme of things, it is the parliament alone that can enact laws. Hence, it is only a JPC that will have the authority to recommend the required new regulations and laws. 


The apex court, in a way, vindicated this understanding when it remarked, as we go to press, that, “The issue raised in the case  is not only limited to the Rs 1.76 lakh crore  but has a much wider compass.  We would not like to prejudice the probe.  But, what happened in 2001 needs to be looked into.  It is for the CBI to investigate and find out.”  It was in 2001 that the then NDA government led by Vajpayee adopted the policy of first-come-first-served norm for spectrum allocation.  The Supreme Court also remarked about the policy of transfer of dual technology – CDMA and GSM – stating that the CAG has not gone into this issue.  “This matter has not been investigated”, said the Bench. 


We have been raising in these columns since early 2008 that the loss to the exchequer in the 2G spectrum allocation was on three counts – loss due to 122 licenses for new entrants in 2008; loss due to dual technology licenses; and loss due to excess spectrum occupied by GSM operators.  Our estimation of loss was placed at Rs 1.9 lakh crores while the CAG has now pegged it at a little over Rs 1.76 lakh crores.  The need to enquire into a gamut of related policy matters, becomes imperative once again, given the decision of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) that served notices, according to media reports,  on 85 operators seeking a show cause explanation as to why their licenses should not be revoked as they have not fulfilled the rollout obligations, ie, not started operations.  They are, thus, open to the charge that they may well resell these licenses for massive profits, as some have done earlier. 


For these reasons, it is clear  that the UPA government’s arguement  that since the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is looking into the CAG report, there is no need to constitute a JPC is simply untenable.  The PAC is essentially a committee that examines accounts, by definition.  If all other related policy issues need to be examined, then it is only a JPC that can authoritatively make recommendations.  Those who argue that the JPCs in the past have not produced any results, overlook the fact that current regulations for our financial markets have been put in place only after the JPC recommendations on the Harshad Mehta stock market scam. 


By not allowing the parliament to perform its duties, the government is seriously undermining the foundations of our constitutional scheme of things.  The executive (government) is accountable to the legislature (parliament) which, in turn, is accountable to the people.  The sovereignty of the people - `We, the People’ – is, thus, established in this scheme.  By jettisoning the parliament, the government is escaping from being accountable and, at the same time, eroding, both in letter and spirit, this constitutional scheme.  This is a very grave matter that strikes at the very foundations of our Republican constitution and parliamentary democracy.


In these developments, the role of the principal opposition – BJP – is becoming curiouser and curiouser.  We had spoken of its double speak, in these columns earlier, concerning the defence of its government’s corruption  in Karnataka.  Now we find that the BJP, on the one hand, demands a JPC and, on the other, one of its former national presidents who currently chairs the PAC has begun investigation into the CAG report.  This thoroughly endorses the standpoint of the ruling Congress-led UPA coalition.  Further, Mr L K Advani has publicly commented that if the BJP’s leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha was allowed to speak at the beginning of this winter session, then the BJP would not have raised the demand for a JPC. Further still, BJP’s ideologue and a member of the Vajpayee cabinet of ministers, Mr Arun Shourie, has vehemently articulated against the constitution of a JPC.  Clearly, the BJP does not want a probe into the policy shifts that happened under their government.  Recollect that the NDA government had abruptly moved from the policy of `license fees’ to `revenue sharing’ in the telecom sector which, then, was alleged to have caused a massive loss to government revenues at the expense of favouring some corporates. 


Thus, the BJP’s credibility on this issue of fighting corruption comes under a huge question mark.  Given this, while most opposition parties have raised the issue of a JPC, an all-in-opposition unity is simply not tenable.  This is apart from the fact that the secular opposition parties cannot find any common cause with the politics of communalism that the BJP pursues. 


The ruling Congress-led UPA government’s relentless efforts to jettison  this winter session of the parliament by refusing to constitute a JPC cannot, however, conceal or contain the growing people’s anger against such mega corruption.  The intervening period till the commencement of the budget session next February must see a growing public pressure that must be mounted on this UPA government to make it accountable both to the parliament and the people on the issue of mega corruption. 


December 8, 2010