ArpitGarg's Weblog

An opinion of the world around me

Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC)?

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We have been exposed to a new phenomenon during the recent times. I am talking about the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC). Opposition wants to have a JPC, Ruling party does not want to give a JPC and Common man is left wondering what the JPC is?

By JPC, I understand a committee jointly constituted by parliamentarians across the party lines. How is it any different from any other gazillion committees that are formed to probe matters? Why the obsession? Will it prove to be of any help?

JPC is constituted mainly in the cases where people don’t have faith that the Govt. will allow an impartial probe or the Govt. wants to impress that it has nothing to hide. There are no specific rules to it and very few references to generalize from.  JPC does not have any punitive powers. It can only pass resolution and give recommendations.  Let’s delve in a bit of history. In all there have been four investigative JPC’s till now as below:

JPC 1

  • Cause: Bofors scam in ‘87.
  • Days Parliament was stalled before it was constituted: 45.
  • Effect: Recommendations were rejected by the opposition party.
  • Timeline: Aug ‘87- April ‘88.

JPC2

  • Cause: Harshad Mehta scandal in ‘92.
  • Days Parliament was stalled before it was constituted: 17.
  • Effect: Recommendations partially accepted but never implemented.
  • Ministers summoned: Dr Manmohan Singh (then Finance Minister).

JPC3

  • Cause: Ketan Parekh securities scam in ‘01.
  • Days Parliament was stalled before it was constituted: 15.
  • Effect: Recommended a lot of stringent changes to stock market regulations but were diluted later on.
  • Timeline: April ‘01-Dec ‘02.
  • Ministers summoned: Mr Yashwant Sinha (then Finance Minister).

JPC4

  • Cause: Pesticide in Soft dirnks in’ 03.
  • Effect: Recommended guidelines for water usage by Soft drink companies.
  • Timeline: Aug ‘03-Feb ‘04.

So what will the JPC achieve in this case and why is Govt. not allowing it? One thing for sure, it’s going to achieve nothing more than a set of recommendations that too in a year’s time. As to why the Govt. is not allowing it, is a bit tricky.

UPA has 259/545 in Lok Shabha and 91/243 in Rajya Sabha. Given these funny numbers from the coalition era and SP/BSP giving outside support, UPA will be in minority with strength of around 7 in a 15 member JPC. UPA might not be able to dictate terms in the JPC.

In the past the ministers summoned were Finance Ministers but this time the focus is on PM himself. Congress is worried that JPC might summon Dr. Manmohan Singh for questioning. Thus it is ready to sacrifice entire Winter session. If PM is summoned it would be highly embarrassing to the Govt.

Also the opposition will get a potent tool against the Govt. with leaks from investigation sprayed across the media. Govt. can ill afford it.

Verdict: Govt. might not allow a JPC in this matter. Winter session will be sacrificed.

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