In a major turn of events in the joint parliamentary committee (JPC) meeting on 2G allocation scam, a top finance ministry official has said that a key note prepared by the ministry in connection with the spectrum pricing issue was "informal".
The controversial note, made by the finance ministry and sent to the Prime Minister's office on March 25, 2011, involved two Cabinet ministers — finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and home minister P Chidambaram, who was the finance minister at the time of the 2G scam in 2007-08.
The note, whose cover page was labelled ‘seen by the FM (Mukherjee)’, had suggested that the telecom ministry could have gone for auction of 2G licences, had the then finance minister P Chidambaram insisted on it. The finance ministry had sent a detailed ten-page note to the PMO on the same.
At the JPC meeting today, R Gopalan, secretary, economic affairs in the finance ministry, told parliamentarians that the note prepared by the finance ministry was “informal” and was done on the basis of a “phone call” from the PMO.
There was no official record of the request to prepare such a document, Gopalan told JPC, according to an Opposition member in JPC.
Gopalan, who appeared before JPC for the third time, was accompanied by finance secretary R S Gujral. JPC meeting would continue on Thursday as well because the members of the Opposition parties, especially Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Left parties, could not complete the questioning.
When Gopalan was asked by JPC members why he had not told them about the document when he had appeared before the committee twice earlier, he said it was an informal document and he didn’t think it was relevant.
Gopalan also said that being the senior most official of the finance ministry he would accept the responsibility for the preparation of the document.
Opposition members of JPC were annoyed when Gopalan explained that finance minister Pranab Mukherjee was told that such a document was being prepared but was unable to explain in detail if Mukherjee had seen and approved the document before sending it to the PMO.
Upset that senior finance ministry officials were unable to explain the position and give clear cut answers to the questions raised by JPC, members of the United Progressive Alliance blamed them for being ill-prepared.
JPC members believe there was complicity between the political establishment and senior officers in the government and dubbed the entire exercise as shadow boxing.