New Delhi, Nov 30: After wastage of 13 consecutive working days, the entire Winter session of Parliament appears set to be lost as efforts to break the government-opposition stand-off over JPC issue failed today with both sides hardening their positions.
At an all-party meeting called by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, the Opposition made it clear that it will not allow Parliament to function till JPC into 2G spectrum allocation is set up but the government said the demand was "unacceptable".
The Opposition parties also emphasised that it will not be satisfied by anything less than JPC, rejecting government's proposal for Supreme Court monitored CBI probe into 2G scam.
The government also ruled out sine die adjournment of the session which is slated to conclude on December 13.
To build pressure on the government, about 80 MPs belonging to non-NDA opposition parties marched to the Rashtrapati Bhavan to urge President Pratibha Patil to "advise" the government to set up JPC.
"All the Opposition parties demanded a JPC and if the government cant give JPC, the Parliament would not be able to function. We have told this thing to the Speaker also," Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj told reporters after the two-and-a-half hour meeting.
During the meeting, the Speaker suggested that the Question Hour should be allowed and other issues could be debated later but it was turned down by the Opposition.
"We asked how will that help if Question hour goes on," Swaraj said, adding her party wanted Parliament to function not only one hour but the whole day.
"Why is the government refusing to accept JPC is bewildering. Government feels many skeletons will come out of its cupboard," CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta said.
Insisting that the demands for JPC do not fit in the rules of Parliament, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said, "This meeting could not bring about the results we expected."
Besides leaders from Congress and BJP, the meeting was attended by representatives of parties like JD(U), AIADMK, Left parties, TDP, Samajwadi Party, Trinamool Congress and National Conference.
At the meeting, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told the Opposition that its demand for JPC was "unacceptable" to the government.
He proposed SC-monitored CBI probe and reiterated readiness for attaching teams of multi-discplinary investigative agencies to the Public Accounts Committee.
"We didn't get any assurance from the Government. They said that the PAC is already looking into the matter. If SC monitors the CBI inquiry, then the Opposition will get two inquires," Swaraj said.
Bansal said the Opposition was expanding the ambit on which it seeks JPC and wants the loan scam unearthed by CBI to be brought in its purview. "This is preposterous," he said.
Explaining the reasons for government's refusal to accept demand for JPC, he said the Opposition wants the Parliamentary Committee to look into government formation and who played role in appointment of ministers.
"Can a Committee do this task? It is the prerogative of the Prime Minister and it cannot be questioned," he asserted.
Justifying the demand for JPC, Swaraj said it has "unlimited scope" and can summon any agency or minister and question them whereas in the Supreme Court, only lawyers are allowed to argue.
"Even if Supreme Court agrees to monitor probe, how can JPC be redundant or irrelevant. We rejected this proposal," the BJP leader said.
"We can't understand how the Government can propose something which is in the domain of the Supreme Court. What the apex court will do or not do, how does the Government know about it? Even if it agrees, it won't be in the JPC domain," she said.
Observing that JPC is a Parliamentary body, she wondered how Parliament can lose its rights.
"Government is answerable towards the Supreme Court only on the issues it is asked to reply to or the things which are asked in the petition, whereas the government is accountable to Parliament," Swaraj said.
She contended that the Opposition unity is getting strengthened on the JPC issue and the parties, which earlier were not coming out in the open, are now demanding it openly.
When the Opposition questioned why the government was not setting up JPC as it had been done earlier also, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah argued that no result came out of such probes at four earlier occasions and their recommendations were not accepted.
Swaraj countered, saying if this was the case, then the provision for JPC should be removed from the rule book as the same reason would be given every time such a probe is sought.
Dasgupta said records show that Abdullah's contention is wrong as the ATR was submitted in the Harshad Mehta stocks scam by the JPC of which he was a member. Some of its suggestions were accepted, he said.
AIADMK and TDP referred to the government's move to get the Supplementary Demands for Grants of various departments passed tomorrow and said it should not be done unless normalcy returns to Parliament.
Marching to Rashtrapati Bhavan from Parliament House, the Left parties, AIADMK, MDMK, TDP, BJD, AGP and RLD wanted the President to follow the precedents set by her predecessors Shankar Dayal Sharma and K R Narayanan, who had asked the then governments to probe the Babri Masjid demolition and Gujarat communal riots respectively.
Addressing a press conference later, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said "the scope of this scam goes beyond the ambit of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). The corruption scandal shows how the system has been comprehensively manipulated."
He said JPC was the only instrument available in view of the magnitude of the "single largest corruption scandal in independent India .... which has led to loss of over Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer".
While the PAC cannot go beyond the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the spectrum issue, a Joint Parliamentary Committee would be able to recommend how loopholes in the system can be plugged and such manipulation checked, he said.
"Any investigation, even if it is supervised by the judiciary, will also not be able to go into the issue. Parliament makes laws. If a new law has to be made (to prevent such manipulation), then it is only a parliamentary committee that can recommend it. So, there is no other way but the JPC," Yechury said justifying the JPC demand.
AIADMK leader M Thambidurai also said that PAC had its "limitations and only a JPC can fully probe the issue."
While the country lost an estimated Rs 1.76 lakh crore in the spectrum scam, it would have required only Rs 1.10 lakh crore to give the entire population 35 kg rice at the rate of Rs 2 a kg for two years. Similarly, schools could be set up in each village if Rs 1.70 lakh was spent over five years, he said, adding "the money could have been used to eliminate hunger from the country". PTI