Centre may agree on JPC to break stalemate

NEW Delhi, February 8 (Agencies): Indicating that the deadlock in parliament over the opposition’s demand for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the 2G spectrum scam could finally end, the government on Tuesday told political leaders that there was nothing “dearer” to it than letting the house run smoothly. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told a meeting of political leaders from all parties that “nothing is dearer than running the house”, sources present at the meeting said in an indication that the government might agree to the formation of a JPC to probe the financial irregularities in the allocation of second-generation telephony spectrum.
Though the nearly 90-minute all-party meeting at the Parliament Annexe remained inconclusive, leaders told reporters that there was consensus among all parties that parliament should function during the crucial budget session beginning Feb 21. “We have told the government, and I think there is a hope. We hope that government will take a decision on the JPC, approve the formation of JPC and parliament will then function properly,” Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said after the meeting. Sushma Swaraj said the government’s feeling was that the house should run smoothly. “It is natural that we feel that the government would agree for JPC” when it was known that to run the house, the opposition wanted a JPC probe, she said.
BJP leader Arun Jaitley said the “opposition is speaking in one voice” and there was no change in their stance over the JPC. Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Gurudas Dasgupta said after the meeting that he was “very, very hopeful” about the government agreeing to the opposition’s demand for a JPC probe. Sources said that “the ice (between the government and opposition) is melting”. “A possible way out to end the logjam would be found out before the budget session,” said a leader present at the meeting. Another round of talks would be held on the eve of the budget session after the finance minister’s consultations with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who is chairperson of the Congress Parliamentary Party, it was learnt. The ice-breaking talks were a renewed effort by the government’s chief trouble shooter Mukherjee to break the deadlock. The winter session was crippled by the opposition, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left, and worries are that the three-month budget session could go the same way. The BJP and the Left, among others, have been relentlessly sticking to their demand for the JPC probe into the scandal that has cornered the Manmohan Singh government. The government has so far ruled out the JPC probe into the scam that cost then IT and communication minister A. Raja of the DMK his job months before he was arrested last week.
The BJP has said there would be no parliament if there is no JPC. Its leader L.K. Advani maintains that there is “no dilution” in the stand of the party and its allies in the National Democratic Alliance on the demand. The Congress, on its part, said the acceptance or rejection of the opposition’s JPC demand should not be seen as victory or defeat. “People who believe in democracy would want the parliament to run… They should talk and not be obdurate. Every right thinking person would want the parliament to run and this is in the interest of the people,” Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed said. “It is hypothetical to consider it defeat or victory for the government. We don’t want the parliament to be disrupted in the coming session,” Ahmed said when asked by reporters if the government was conceding its defeat when a JPC is announced.
Court extends Raja’s CBI custody by two days
New Delhi, February 8 (PTI): Former Telecom Minister A. Raja was on Tuesday remanded to two more days of CBI custody by a court here for further interrogation after the agency submitted that he was not divulging any “useful information” regarding his role in the 2G scam. Special Judge O.P. Saini also sent former Telecom Secretary Siddartha Behura and Mr. Raja’s former Personal Secretary R. K. Chandolia to Tihar Jail under judicial custody, as the agency said it no longer needs them in its custody.
 Raja will remain in CBI custody till February 10. The trio, arrested by the agency on February 2 for their alleged role in the 2G spectrum allocation scam, involving a loss of Rs 22,000 crore to the public exchequer as per the CVC estimates, were produced before the Special Judge following expiry of their five—day custody with the CBI. After producing the trio before the court, the CBI sought four more days of custody to interrogate Mr. Raja saying that he was “not divulging any useful and crucial information” about his role in 2G spectrum scam.
 “Some more documents are to be recovered and accused A. Raja is to be confronted with them,” senior CBI prosecutor Akhilesh submitted. Refuting allegations by Mr. Raja’s counsel Ramesh Gupta that the agency had not disclosed to the court the outcome of the probe conducted so far in this case, Mr. Akhilesh said, “The case diary has already been submitted to the court. Each and everything cannot be disclosed in the open courtroom.”
Opposing the CBI’s demand for four more days of Mr. Raja’s custody, Mr. Gupta said, “I do not have the custody of any document which the CBI wants to recover from me.”  “Whatever documents were there, the CBI have already been seized them in 2009 itself,” he added. About Mr. Behura and Mr. Chandolia, the CBI counsel said the agency no longer needs their custody. “The two can be sent to Tihar Jail under judicial custody,” he said.