Govt orders JPC probe into chopper scam

NEW DELHI, Feb 27:
Government today stumped the opposition by announcing a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the chopper deal with an assertion that there will be “no cover up” and it was determined to go to the root of the scam so that the guilty could be given the maximum punishment.
The setting up of the 30-member JPC was decided through a Government motion passed by the Rajya Sabha after a walkout by members of most of Opposition parties like BJP, JD(U), Trinamool Congress, CPI and AGP.
Moving the motion, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said the 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.
Nath, who had informed Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj this morning about the Government’s intent to order JPC probe, attacked the Opposition for walking out, saying they were “running away”.
BJP, which had stalled the entire Winter Session of 2010 by persistently demanding a JPC probe into the 2G scam, walked out of the House against the motion, indicating that the party will refuse to be part of the committee.
Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley said formation of JPC “was an exercise in futility” and “diversionary tactic”.
Shiv Sena, an NDA constituent, delinked itself from BJP’s position and supported formation of 30-member JPC to come out with a report in three months.
However, members of CPI, JD (U), Trinamool and AGP joined BJP in the walkout.
Earlier, the House saw an animated 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 Agusta Westland which has got into a controversy after charges that kickbacks were paid to the tune of Rs 362 crore.
Replying to the debate, Defence Minister A K Antony asserted that the Government had nothing to hide and there would be no “cover up”. He said the Government is determined to go to the “root of the scam”.
Nath said the JPC will have 20 members from Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya Sabha. He gave a list of seven names from Rajya Sabha which did not BJP members but included Satish Mishra (BSP), renuka, birendra singh (Cong), Ram Gopal Yadav (SP).
He said three remaining members of the Rajya Sabha will be decided by the Chairman of the House.
Insisting that there was no inaction on his part, Antony 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.”
He said the Italian court hearing the case has refused to share details, saying it is at preliminary stage.
After the secrecy clause is over, the Italian authorities will share information, he said. (PTI)

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