New Delhi: Amid the main opposition party BJP’s demand for a time-bound probe into VVIP chopper deal, Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Kamal Nath on Wednesday moved a motion in the Rajya Sabha for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) enquiry into the contentious issue.
The motion was adopted by the Upper House after BJP, JD(U), Trinamool Congress, AGP, CPI, TDP staged a walkout. Moving the motion, Kamal Nath said the 30-member JPC would submit its report within three months of its first sitting and rejected the Opposition contention that the decision would amount to putting the issue on the backburner. He attacked the Opposition for walking out, saying they were "running away".
Earlier, the House saw a debate during which the opposition accused the government of inaction for over a year into the Rs 3,600 crore deal for 12 helicopters with AgustaWestland which has got into a controversy after allegations that kickbacks to the tune of Rs 362 crore were paid to bag it.
|“Government has nothing to hide about the investigation in the scam. I have explained everything in the Parliament," Defence Minister AK Antony said.|
|"Government totally accepts JPC. Some of the political parties have said that they want a JPC ...we (government) accept the demand. The point is that the government wants to get to the bottom of this because such a scam breaking out internationally is a slur on India. One is the bribery part of it and the corruption part of it. That is why it is very important on part of the government of India to reveal the truth not only to people of the country but to all the concerned all over," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said.|
|“JPC will be exercise in futility, it is diversionary tactic,” Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley said.|
|“Government has not given commitment on filing an FIR. JPC can’t find the truth, hence we (BJP) walked out of the Parliament,” BJP's Ravi Shankar Prasad said.|
|"JPC is meaningless in present situation because the Lok Sabha term will end in about a year's time and as we know JPCs take longer. So this is a method of scuttling the probe," BJP’s Yashwant Sinha said.|
|"You should ask the Opposition about their stand on JPC. Earlier they were adamant on having JPC. I don't know why they were opposed to it now," Samajwadi Party MP Ram Gopal Yadav said.|
|“Parliament is the supreme body in a democracy hence the BSP supported the formation of JPC," BSP chief Mayawati said.|
|“JPC is not the solution. After we walked out, all of opposition joined us. They say something and do something else," TMC's Derek O' Brien said.|
Replying to the debate, Defence Minister AK Antony asserted that there would be no "cover up" and the government was determined to go to the "root of the scam". Insisting that there was no inaction on his part, he said he ordered the CBI probe as soon as reports came about the arrest of Giuseppe Orsi, CEO of AgustaWestland's parent company Finmeccanica in Italy.
Noting that CBI has filed a Preliminary Enquiry and named 11 individuals, including former Air Chief S P Tyagi, Antony expressed confidence that the probe by the agency along with the one in Italy will bring out the truth. "We have nothing to hide... We will not cover up; we will not be a party to cover-up. We will go to the root of the issue. Whoever is responsible will have to bear serious consequences," Antony said about the scam which unfolded earlier this month.
Revealing that he had "thought" of quitting after the scam broke, he promised the strongest action against the company if evidence points to wrongdoing. "It is a matter of serious concern. We have to go to the root of the scam and punish the culprits because every pie that the government spends comes from tax payers. Whoever swindled public money, they have to be booked, they have to pay the price," he said, sharing concerns of the members who wanted to know the beneficiary of the kickbacks in India.
Besides the former Air Chief, his three cousins, former CEOs of Finmeccanica and AgustaWestland and five others have been named as accused in the case. Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland and Indian companies IDS Infotech and Aeromatrix have also been named in the case. "I want to know the truth, I will not run away. I want to punish the guilty... I must pursue this case and punish the guilty to the maximum extent, the Defence Minister said, adding "our track record is not cover up." Asking the Opposition not to politicise the issue, he said "We thought to satisfy you and respect your sentiments, so we thought we can have JPC."
Hitting out at the Opposition members for seemingly "enjoying the scam", the senior Congress leader said, "as a public worker I feel ashamed... A scam is not to be enjoyed." He said the Italian court hearing the case has refused to share details, saying the proceedings are at preliminary stage. "At the preliminary stage of investigations, only the arrested persons and their lawyers can have access to documents," he said, adding "If they cite preliminary stage of inquiry, what can we do?" After the secrecy clause is over, the Italian authorities will share information, he said.