PM quiet as opposition clamours for response on court remark


New Delhi : The chorus for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s response to the Supreme Court’s comment on his “inaction” on a plea to prosecute A. Raja for the 2G spectrum scam grew louder Wednesday with BJP leader L.K. Advani adding his voice. But the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) maintained a resolute ‘no comment’ stance.

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As veteran Bharatiya Janata Party leader Advani joined the opposition clamour and said it was the prime minister’s duty to respond to the Supreme Court’s “serious remark” Tuesday and the Left too sought a reaction, the prime minister maintained his quiet.

“We have nothing to comment on the matter,” an official in the PMO told IANS. He was backed by senior law ministry officials and party leaders.

A senior official in the law ministry said the Supreme Court’s remarks were “more technical” in nature. He said the government’s top legal officer, Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam, had stated that the government would explain its position when the case came up in the court again Thursday.

Subramanium maintained that the Supreme Court’s criticism of the prime minister in the 2G spectrum scam was not an embarrassment.

“Not at all. The Supreme Court remarks are not embarrassing,” Subramaniam told a TV channel.

Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari echoed him and said the appropriate response would be given in court. “It is inappropriate to make a second-guess on the reponse,” Tewari added.

Dissatisfied with the response, the opposition seized the moment.

Advani, campaigning in Bihar, told reporters in Patna: “The Supreme Court has made a serious remark on the prime minister and PMO on that issue (2G spectrum allocation controversy). I do not recall having come across such a remark on the PM’s office in the last 60 years. It is the PM’s duty to reply to the comment immediately.”

Advani also reiterated the party’s demand for setting up a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) to investigate the 2G spectrum licensing issue.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) asked Manmohan Singh to explain how the “murky” 2G spectrum scam dragged on and sought the prosecution of disgraced former communications and IT minister A. Raja, who quit Sunday night.

“The Supreme Court has correctly asked why the prime minister delayed responding to the request for permission to prosecute the (former) telecom minister for 11 months,” it said in a statement.

“It should be further asked why the prime minister refused to order a probe on the telecom scam for a longer period despite repeated requests. For instance, the CPI-M leader in the Rajya Sabha, Sitaram Yechury, had written to the prime minister in November 2008 asking for an enquiry.

“The prime minister should explain in parliament how this murky affair was allowed to go on for so long,” it said.

In response to a case filed by Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy, the Supreme Court Tuesday asked the government to explain why the prime minister took 15 months to respond to a request that asked for (then) minister Raja to be prosecuted for breaking the rules and costing the government huge loss by deliberately undervaluing the 2G spectrum in 2008.

“The alleged inaction and silence is worrying us,” said the court.

Raja resigned Sunday night ahead of the tabling of a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) into the 2G spectrum allotment that is estimated to have caused losses of Rs.1.76 lakh crore (Rs.1.76 trillion/approx $39 billion).