JPC Chairman PC Chacko, whose removal has been sought by some panel members, said he would have considered resigning if the demand had come to him directly instead of Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar being approached for his ouster. Chacko was speaking to Karan Thapar on Devil's Advocate.
Here is the full transcript of the interview:
Karan Thapar: Hello and welcome to Devil's Advocate and in an interview with embattled and beleaguered Chaiman of JPC PC Chacko. Mr Chacko 15 members of the JPC, 50 per cent of your membership, have met the Speaker and asked that you be removed as Chairman. Can you deny you have lost the confidence of your members?
PC Chacko: I do not think so because it is a political divide and I do not see any other reason other than political reason for them to write a letter.
Karan Thapar: I will come to the reasons in a moment of time, but with 50 per cent of your members demanding that you be removed, I put to you that the honourable thing to do is to voluntarily resign.
PC Chacko: If they had demanded me that I resign, I would have considered that. Now they have asked the Speaker to remove me but I have not seen any rule by which anybody can remove chairman of a committee.
Karan Thapar: You said a very important thing, if they had come to you and asked you to resign, you would have considered resigning.
PC Chacko: Yes.
Karan Thapar: But because they have gone to Speaker to remove you, you refuse to resign.
PC Chacko: That is because they are playing a political game. I am 100 per cent sure.
Karan Thapar: They may be playing a political game but the danger is, if you not resign voluntarily, then whenever the JPC meets, those 15 members will move a vote of confidence against you, which you could lose and that would be hugely embarrassing.
PC Chacko: Even today I wish that they move a no-confidence motion in the committee. If they can move a no-confidence motion in the committee, number one there is no provision for moving a no-confidence motion against chairman. Rules do not say that a chairman can be removed at all. Chairman can be removed, if at all, only by the person who appointed the chairman.
Karan Thapar: Rules don't actually mention that you can have a vote of confidence or not. The rules are grey on that area, they are vague. So if they were to move a vote of confidence, would you permit it or would you refuse it?
PC Chacko: As per rules I cannot.
Karan Thapar: You cannot?
PC Chacko: That is the reason why.
Karan Thapar: So you will be a stumbling block against the vote of confidence in yourself.
PC Chacko: No, I won't be. They know it well that the rules do not permit, that is a sole reason why... It would have been better for them to embarrass me to move a no-confidence motion in the committee. Why they did not do that? They went to the Speaker knowing that there is no provision for a no-confidence motion.
Karan Thapar: So just to clarify, if whenever the JPC meets, 15 of the members who have gone to the Speaker demanding you be removed, were to seek to move a vote of no-confidence against you, you would deny them the right to do so.
PC Chacko: I do not envisage in a situation like that because they had gone to the Speaker, given a motion.
Karan Thapar: I am asking you what would you do if that were to happen because many people envisage that even if you don't.
PC Chacko: No, that's hypothetical.
Karan Thapar: Of course it is hypothetical, but I'm asking you in that situation what would you do? Would you permit it or you refuse?
PC Chacko: No I will not be called upon to take a decision on such a situation because that motion is now before the Speaker and the Speaker has to take a decision.
Karan Thapar: A second probability is whenever the JPC meets, those 15 may actually vote to reject your report. Now not only that will be embarrassing for you but this time it would be damaging for the institution of the JPC.
PC Chacko: That is exactly the reason why I have stated already and even now I am saying that I will try for an consensus. In the sense that you know when the committee was constituted...
Karan Thapar: It is quite clear that 15 people already demanding your resignation or your removal, you don't have any option.
PC Chacko: It is not necessary.
Karan Thapar: You won't get a consensus.
PC Chacko:No, it is not necessary, even now there can be a consensus.
Karan Thapar: You mean that you are hoping that one of those 15 will break ranks and switch sides.
PC Chacko: No, it not because of that. They will realise that many of them are already with a dissenting note. So, dissenting note to be upended with the original text then the text has to be there for dissenting note.
Karan Thapar: Mr Chacko this is you hope that they will opt for a dissenting note instead. They are making it clear, that they will (a) be united and (b) those 15 will demand that the vote be held on the report and when that vote is held you will lose it. So I am asking you again, are you prepared for that embarrassment because it will not just damage you, it will damage the institutional JPC.
PC Chacko: The ground reality or the fact is not that. Today Mr Sitaram Yechury has said that he has made his dissenting note, it is almost an alternate report. I will know that dissenting note, I welcome that.
Karan Thapar: Only if he has to. His first preference, and he has also made this clear, is to actually reject your main report. Now if they ask for a vote on main report, you can't refuse it, rule 261 permits it. When that vote is held, chances are you will lose it 15-14, there won't be a tie so you can use your casting vote. Are you prepared to lose?
PC Chacko: I do not think that the majority of the members even those who want, now say, that they want to reject the report will go for that. The simple thing is that after 2 years of labour, after wash out session, the Opposition demand of constituting a JPC, what is the outcome if there is no report?
Karan Thapar: The truth is that it is you hope and it may not turn out to be wishful thinking but let let's not quarrel over it, we will know when ever the JPC is held. And that now leaves me to that critical question, people fear that you will deliberately postpone the JPC and not call it because you are trying to avoid embarrassment to yourself.
PC Chacko: No, definitely not. Yesterday immediately before taking this decision, I consulted Mr Yashwant Sinha, Mr Gurudas Dasgupta, all the people who were available there in the House. I asked them that a sitting member died, there is a demand from some members to postpone, what do I do?
Karan Thapar: Were the agreeable to the postponement?
PC Chacko: Yes, they all agreed to postponement.
Karan Thapar: Gurudas Dasgupta, Yashwant Sinha agreed to postponement?
PC Chacko: Yes, it was their suggestion also.
Karan Thapar: What is the new date you propose to set?
PC Chacko: I want to have it at the earliest.
Karan Thapar: No what is the date? Earliest is vague.
PC Chacko: Earliest means I have to meet Speaker before I announce the date. Since there is a no-confidence motion against me, it's only courtesy that I go and meet the Speaker.
Karan Thapar: I understand but the problem is we are recording on Friday, you are leaving at 6-o-clock for Kerela, that means you cannot meet the Speaker till you return on Monday. Which means clearly that there will be no JPC meeting on Monday the 29th.
PC Chacko: No in fact Monday I suggested, some members expressed their in convenience to fix the meeting on Monday.
Karan Thapar: So Monday.
PC Chacko: I always accommodate the views of the members, so today before I go, I will be meeting the Speaker. Not that I cannot meet the Speaker that is not the reason.
Karan Thapar: No but then when will the meeting be?
PC Chacko: If it is not on Monday, it will be on the same week itself.
Karan Thapar: It will be in the same week.
PC Chacko: Yes.
Karan Thapar: In other words it could be Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, even Saturday. In other words you are now stretching the horizon by six days.
PC Chacko: No as far as I am concerned, I want to have it at the earliest.
Karan Thapar: But I am asking you when will it be?
PC Chacko: No, I cannot say that now.
Karan Thapar: So it's quite possible as your critics and sceptics say that it may not happen in this session of Parliament at all.
PC Chacko: If my critics and sceptics ask me to call the meeting tomorrow, I am ready to call it tomorrow.
Karan Thapar: I am asking you a different question. From your answers it is becoming clear that for one reason or another you can't fix a date and sceptics say he never fixed a date and it won't happen in this session
PC Chacko: I fixed the date and I was ready for the meeting yesterday, it was not my decision to postpone.
Karan Thapar: But you can't, at this moment, give me a new date. Can you?
PC Chacko: No I cannot.
Karan Thapar: So can you give me an assurance that it will happen in this session of Parliament?
PC Chacko: Definitely, I can give you the assurance.
Karan Thapar: Is it a cast iron assurance?
PC Chacko: It is a cast iron assurance .
Karan Thapar: It will definitely happen in this session?
PC Chacko: It will definitely happen in this session and the life of this committee is only till May 10 that is the last date of this Parliament. And it needs at least a week's time to print the report.
Karan Thapar: So there is no question of life being extended beyond 10th of May?
PC Chacko: 10th of May, prior to that, at least by 8th of May I want to table it on the table of the House.
Karan Thapar: That is a cast iron assurance.
PC Chacko: Yes.
Karan Thapar: You won't go back on it?
PC Chacko: No.
Karan Thapar: Let's then come to the problems that have placed you in the predicament that you face today. To begin with, the leak of the draft JPC report on Thursday the 18th. Yashwant Sinha, one of the most prominent members of the JPC, has bluntly said to the Business Standard and I am quoting him "the draft report of JPC was leaked by the JPC chairman". He is right, isn't he?
PC Chacko: He is not right.
Karan Thapar: He is not right?
PC Chacko: He is not right.
Karan Thapar: You can tell me with a hand on your heart that you did not leak it.
PC Chacko: Yes, I can swear. I can say that, you know, I had experience in the past in the committees that classified documents supplied to the members were leaked in number of occasions.
Karan Thapar: Let's not go into the past. I want to get you to repeat, you swear you didn't.
PC Chacko: Yes, I did not leak this report and I am suffering today because that report is leaked. I wish today that it should not have leaked.
Karan Thapar: I want you to repeat the word you used, you swear you didn't leak it.
PC Chacko: Yes, yes I repeat that, I do swear, I repeat it, I can say at the loudest of voice that I have not done, I will not do that.
Karan Thapar: On the CNN-IBN programme 'The Last Word', last Friday, you said that you have exercised extreme caution, that you had sent the report through sealed cover and special messenger. How then do you account for the fact that by 6 PM on the 18th the report was in hands of various channels, it was in hands of various newspapers? Yet your members did not receive it till 9.30 on Friday the 19th, how do you account for that?
PC Chacko: No this is not correct.
Karan Thapar: Because Ravishankar Prasad on the same programme confirmed that no he but 6 other members of your committee had not received the report till 9.30 Friday the 19th. So it is correct, they are not lying.
PC Chacko: That may be correct because I can tell you, at 6.00 pm I signed the last chapter of this report, I told them you please take the photocopies and you know the practice in our Parliament is to send it through the ordinary cover ...
Karan Thapar: And you sent it through sealed cover and special messenger?
PC Chacko: I made special arrangements, I made special covers to seal, it was sent through special messenger. The delay for the members not receiving is that I specifically instructed each member's signature should be taken, when it is delivered.
Karan Thapar: Mr Chacko I am interrupting you because the critical question here is not the delay in members receiving is but the critical question is how did it get into the hands of numerous channels and newspapers. If you sent it through sealed covers, through special messengers, what sought of sealed covers and special messengers, what sought of extreme caution did you use if it ended up in the hands of channels and newspapers?
PC Chacko: It must have gone from some members and that has happened in the past also, number of times.
Karan Thapar: People say it went directly from you.
PC Chacko: Number of times this has happened in the committee, I have even warned the members, the purpose which I have sent to you is going to the media.
Karan Thapar: As chairman of JPC it was your responsibility to ensure secrecy of the draft JPC report. Can you accept you failed?
PC Chacko: No, I did not fail.
Karan Thapar: Do you accept any responsibility for the leak whatsoever?
PC Chacko: I have no responsibility and I have not even 1 per cent responsibility.
Karan Thapar: Not even moral responsibility?
PC Chacko: No, not even that because the way I have dispatched these to each member. Definitely I have taken extra caution which normally no chairman takes. I wanted this to be a confidential document.
Karan Thapar: Audience is hearing you, let the audience judge when you even refuse to accept moral responsibility. Whether you are right in doing so or whether you are somehow being arrogant and irresponsible, let the audience decide.
PC Chacko: This is not arrogance because it is my conviction. I have done a right job and this is not arrogance please don't take it as arrogance.
Karan Thapar: Let's then come to the second problem that creates the predicament you face today. In fact you completed the draft JPC report without giving Mr Raja a chance to depose and without inviting the Prime Minister and the then Finance Minister to be questioned. Many people believe that the three gentlemen are critical to any understanding of the 2G scam; with their omission your report is vitiated.
PC Chacko: Many people may be believing that. After examining all the files and all the facts before the committee, majority of the members do not believe that.
Karan Thapar: Hang on for a moment. Fifteen members at least believe that you have erred grievously in not inviting Raja, in not inviting the Prime Minister and the then Finance Minister. Those are the grounds on which they want you to be removed. That's 50 per cent of your membership.
PC Chacko: I can tell you these 15 members...
Karan Thapar: Add to that the SP member, who may be not in favour of removing you but is completely against the fact that you haven't invited Raja and suddenly it becomes 16. That's 16:14 a majority against you.
PC Chacko: This is only a subsequent calculation you are making. These 15 members or 14 members or even 10 members did not tell me in writing, they never demanded that Raja be called.
Karan Thapar: I have to correct you on that. On the CNN-IBN programme 'The Last Word', where you yourself was a participant, Ravi Shankar Prasad publicly said that he had repeatedly asked you to invite Raja, invite the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister as well and you had said you will revert back. He also said you never reverted. In other words, what he was saying was that you deceived him and perhaps lied when you said you will revert and failed to do so.
PC Chacko: These are just subsequent justifications they are fighting for their stand which they have taken. I tell you Ravi Shankar Prasad demanded in the committee, Yashwant Sinha demanded in the committee, but that is not the majority. And majority of the members did not demand. I consulted members individually on what is your opinion on calling the Finance Minister, what is your opinion on calling the Prime Minister. Majority of the members, it is the responsibility and the discretion of the chairman.
Karan Thapar: So, you overlooked the demand of Yashwant Sinha and Ravi Shankar Prasad because they were a minority?
PC Chacko: They were a minority.
Karan Thapar: What about Gurudas Dasgupta who also publicly, on the same CNN-IBN programme, said that he had demanded that you consult the members on the list of people and refused to do so?
PC Chacko: I am not denying that. Gurudas Dasgupta, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Yashwant Sinha, three of them demanded this but three of them are three in 30. So, a chairman has to go by the majority.
Karan Thapar: Was the majority against inviting these people or did they just keep quiet?
PC Chacko: Whatever it is. Only when there is a demand...
Karan Thapar: Mr Chacko, it is very important. If the majority was silent and three people were demanding that in fact these people be invited then in fact the only people raising a demand are those saying invite them and yet you ignored it. It is a very important point.
PC Chacko: No, in fact when three people are demanding for that, when the chairman is not agreeing to that then the other members will also have to come out. They are not there to sit quiet.
Karan Thapar: Did you actually ask the other members?
PC Chacko: I did ask the other members.
Karan Thapar: Specifically?
PC Chacko: Specifically.
Karan Thapar: And they said no?
PC Chacko: Yes.
Karan Thapar: Now you are saying something different. You are saying the majority was against inviting.
PC Chacko: Yes.
Karan Thapar: You are on record.
PC Chacko: Yes.
Karan Thapar: The majority were against?
PC Chacko: Majority of the members were against inviting the Prime Minister, against inviting Chidambaram.
Karan Thapar: And what about Raja?
PC Chacko: Raja, I said was an entirely different case. Raja's opinion was taken by the committee. I want to correct the impression that Raja was not heard by the committee. Raja was heard by the committee. It is not by direct person before the committee that are heard. You can either come before the committee or can submit in submission also.
Karan Thapar: Mr Chacko, this is a distinction without a difference. Mr Raja has been indicted by your committee, your committee, according to newspaper reports, has claimed that he has misled the Prime Minister. Yet you have done so without giving him a chance to explain, leave aside defend the accusations you are making. That is just not unfair, it's wrong, it is against justice.
PC Chacko: It is not against natural justice, it is not unfair. There is a general impression, even when you putting this question also, in the back of your mind you think that this is an inquiry in the 2G, so Raja should have been called. Please understand that the leaders and their collective wisdoms, the floor leaders including Sushma Swaraj, decided all the telecom policies, its implementation from 1999-2006. Please understand that there were 10 ministers at that time.
Karan Thapar: Mr Chacko, I accept that the terms of reference are from 1998 to 2008 but you know and I know and it is undeniable that the real reason the JPC was set up was because of the 2G scam. The 2G scam was the centre point and Raja was central to that centre point. By not giving him a chance to defend or explain, you are accusing and indicting him without pursuing the laws of natural justice. You are not just wrong, but unfair.
PC Chacko: You are not taking my argument. Of course, you can do that. But I still say that I called Mr Raja, I invited Raja for a discussion. Not just one day but two days. Then I told Mr Raja, if I call you, proprietary demands, as per the terms of the reference...
Karan Thapar: So invite the others, what's wrong.
PC Chacko:Please understand we couldn't have invited because three times extended this...
Karan Thapar: What is more important arriving at the truth or simply constraining yourself by time?
PC Chacko: Please understand that this committee has enough records and enough evidence to draw the conclusion.
Karan Thapar: You draw a conclusion without giving a man a chance to defend and explain, that is unfair.
PC Chacko:We have given a chance.
Karan Thapar: No you haven't because the one thing you haven't done is, your members didn't get a chance to question him, don't they have right. Don't members have a right to question?
PC Chacko: Members could have sent for his opinion.
Karan Thapar: Is it not easier to make the man sit face to face, he wants to come, he is writing letters saying he wants to come.
PC Chacko: Please understand one thing, anybody deposing before a parliamentary committee, what he says before the committee doesn't have evidential value. What we are calling members, what we are calling them, truth has to be found out from what they are saying, reading between the lines.
Karan Thapar: Well you can only read between the lines when the facts are available, some of the facts would have been available if Mr Raja had personally appeared. You denied him that.
PC Chacko: That's not correct, our committee has not decided, it is a fact that three or four members have been issuing statements, writing to me and making statements in the committee, asking to call these people.
Karan Thapar: Mr Chacko, we are running out of time. I have tried as much ground as possible in this interview but clearly there are lots of questions that remain unasked and therefore unanswered. But there is one I insist on doing before we end. At the end of the day, you may succeed in white washing the government as your critics clam you have done. You may get rewarded by the Congress government for service they are greatful for, but you damaged you integrity and credibility in the eyes of the Indian people. You have dug a hole and buried yourself in it.
PC Chacko: I do not think so, my integrity will be accepted by the people once this report comes out, let this report be allowed to be discussed in Parliament. Let the report come out, let the people discuss it, let the media discuss it. I can today tell you that in nearly two years I have faithfully done this job, the report contains everything which people say is not there. Including Raja's view points.
Karan Thapar: I will leave you the last word that is only fair because you are clearly man in the dock. But I will end by simply adding, at the moment the country does believe that you have done wrong. You have to prove to them and it is an uphill task that you have to.
PC Chacko: It is a misunderstanding and it will be cleared. I'm quite sure.
Karan Thapar: Mr Chacko, a pleasure talking to you.
PC Chacko: Thank you.