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India orders cross-party probe into massive scandal

By Harmeet Shah Singh, CNN
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launched a massive telecom scandal probe.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh launched a massive telecom scandal probe.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Prime Minister: "We can ill afford a situation where parliament is not allowed to function"
  • Opposition groups have called for a wider investigation into the scam
  • Those linked to the probe have denied any wrongdoing
  • The treasury lost up to $31 billion from the 2008 sale
RELATED TOPICS
  • India

New Delhi, India (CNN) -- Cornered by his critics over his handling of corruption in government, India's prime minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday accepted opposition demands for a wider, cross-party investigation into a massive telecom scandal that has rattled his administration, now in its second term.

India's opposition parties have been vociferously asking prime minister Manmohan Singh's government to set up a joint-parliamentary committee (JPC) to probe the alleged multi-billion dollar scam, already being investigated by federal police.

Singh made the announcement for a JPC in parliament, which is currently sitting for its key budget session. Opposition calls for a multi-party investigation into the award of the 2008 mobile-phone licenses paralyzed its previous sitting.

"We can ill-afford a situation where parliament is not allowed to function during the crucial budget session. It is in these special circumstances that our government agreed to the setting up of a joint parliamentary committee," Singh remarked in his brief statement.

Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and communist lawmakers welcomed the announcement.

Several highest-profile company executives have been questioned by police in connection with the suspected below-price sale of radiowaves in 2008. Investigators have also arrested A. Raja who quit as telecom minister as the scandal battered Singh's coalition government.

Politicians, bureaucrats and corporate officials linked to the probe have denied any wrongdoing.

"I am not afraid of appearing before any committee, including a JPC," Singh told a news conference last week as he sought to defend his government from a barrage of allegations.

He insists wrongdoers will be punished.

According to a government audit, the treasury lost up to $31 billion from the 2008 sale of second-generation wireless spectrum. The damning audit report came on the heels of allegations of massive fraud in sports and real estate. Investigators are already probing complaints of financial malfeasance in the

Commonwealth Games that India hosted in October last year. And several politicians, military officials and bureaucrats have been the subjects of a separate inquiry for allegedly taking apartments meant for war-widows.

 
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