Vajpayee not to be called by JPC

New Delhi: Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee will not be called as a witness before the Joint Parliamentary Committee looking into the 2G spectrum allocation scam, although his name was suggested by some members. There have also been suggestions by some members to call former Defence Minister George Fernandes.

"We will not summon Vajpayee and Fernandes due to their ill health," JPC Chairman P C Chacko told PTI here. The names of Vajpayee and Fernandes had found place in the list of those suggested to be called before the panel. The suggestion for calling Vajpayee was made as he had held the Telecom portfolio for a few monthys after the resignation of Jagmohan in the NDA regime.

Chacko had earlier also expressed regret that the name of Vajpayee made it to the list of proposed witnesses. During the last meeting, BJP`s Yashwant Sinha had reacted angrily to the inclusion of Vajpayee`s name in the list. Sources said there was general feeling in the committee that ministers, both former and present, were not required to be called before it as sufficient material was available with the panel to prepare report as per the terms and reference of the JPC.

The terms of reference of the JPC formed last year were to examine the telecom policies followed from 1998 to 2009 and whether there had been any aberrations. Former Telecom Secretary Siddharth Behura will depose before the JPC tomorrow, becoming the first 2G case accused to appear before the panel. The JPC had decided to summon Behura as a witness before it on April 11 and 18 but he had written to the panel seeking more time to prepare himself before appearing as a witness.

Behura was then lodged in Tihar jail and a local court had allowed him to appear before the committee. He was given bail by the Supreme Court in May. Behura was the Telecom Secretary between January 1, 2008, and September 30, 2009. He had appeared before the Public Accounts Committee examining the CAG report on 2G on December 7, 2010.

The JPC had decided to summon Behura and former Telecom Minister A Raja on March 21. It is yet to decide on Raja`s appearance to give oral evidence. Behura was arrested on February 2 last year by CBI along with Raja and his personal secretary R K Chandolia on charges of cheating, forgery, criminal conspiracy and criminal misconduct. Most of the former Telecom Secretaries and former chiefs of TRAI have appeared before the panel as witnesses on the telecom policies followed from 1998 to 2009.