Wednesday, April 18, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

It’s Tehelka again in Houses
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 17
The reprieve for the government over the Tehelka expose was short-lived —only till the Question Hour — as the Congress, joined in by the Rashtriya Janata Dal, once again raised dirt about the tapes, forcing adjournment of both the Houses of Parliament.

After giving hopes of allowing normalcy to return after 10 days of disruption in the first phase of the Budget session, the Congress and the RJD caught the two Houses unawares by raising demands for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the allegations of corruption in defence deals and action against all those exposed by the secret cameras of the dotcom company.

The demand immediately provoked a standoff with the Government rejecting the demand as “absurd”. The Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Mr Pramod Mahajan, retorted by saying that the Congress had come up with an “absurd” argument. It wanted treatment first and diagnosis later.

“We will never accept the Congress demand”, he asserted.

The day began on a peaceful note in both Houses. In the Lok Sabha, all major Opposition parties appeared to be cooperating and the Question Hour was completed without any major hitches.

The RJD leader, Mr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, was on his feet, demanding to know the fate of his notice for an adjournment motion. He was pacified by the Speaker, Mr G.M.C. Balayogi, who assured that he would allow him to take up the matter during the Zero Hour.

Soon after the Question Hour, members of the Congress and the RJD trooped into the well of the Houses, demanding a JPC probe into the corruption charges on defence deals.

Mr Mahajan, while rejecting the demand, said it was ironical that those involved in the Bofors scam had suddenly become sensitive to issues of national security and defence deals.

The deputy leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, Mr Madhavrao Scindia, said inaction in the part of the Government following the expose was ‘inexcusable and unacceptable’.

Pointing out that the NDA Government had come to power on the plank of honesty, integrity and transparency, Mr Scindia said that the Government had no moral responsibility to continue in office.

He said a JPC probe was needed to get to the bottom of the episode as the judicial inquiry ordered by the Government was an “eyewash” and merely a ‘diversionary tactic’.

Spelling out the conditions of the Congress, he said there should be a JPC probe into the allegations and investigations against those shown taking bribes by the Tehelka cameras.

The Speaker, while making known his disapproval of the Congress strategy, asked them, “How many days you want to disturb the House. How many days we have lost”.

Since the members did not relent, the Speaker adjourned the House for 90 minutes till 2 p.m.

When the House reassembled, the members of the Congress and the RJD stuck to their stand, preventing any business from being transacted. The Lok Sabha was finally adjourned for the day.

The Rajya Sabha, too, plunged into turmoil after Question Hour with the Congress members raising the demand for the JPC probe. The Opposition, led by Mr Suresh Pachouri, as countered by shouts from the ruling party benches. The House was adjourned for the day after uproarious scenes continued for over 45 minutes. The Chairman, Mr Krishan Kant, could not bring the members to agree for a mini discussion on the subject as the Congress said it would settle only for a full-fledged discussion.

The Leader of the House, Mr Jaswant Singh, said the Government first had come out with the suggestion for a JPC inquiry but that had not then found favour with the Opposition leaders. He pointed out that the inquiries are being conducted at three levels, including the Army headquarters, at the Defence Ministry level and by a retired Supreme Court judge. The Opposition members did not relent and demanded that first information reports be filed against the guilty.


Probe into tapes begins

New Delhi, April 17
The Venkataswami Commission of Inquiry, set up by the government to probe the Tehelka tapes expose on defence deals, has formally started functioning from its office at Vigyan Bhavan and sought statements from all those acquainted with its subject matter by May 8. UNI

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