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May 9, 2002 | 0820 IST
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JPC to scan correspondence with Mauritius

Subhomoy Bhattacharjee

In an unprecedented move, the Joint Parliamentary Committee probing last year's stocks scam has opened the entire government correspondence with the Mauritius authorities on the issue of double taxation.

The committee was forced to take the step as the Opposition members in the last two meetings had raised a demand that since the Mauritius route had played an important role in the stocks scam, it was rendered necessary that every aspect of the case be looked into.

Opposition members had quoted the Securities and Exchange Board of India report that had mentioned the role of overseas corporate bodies in the scam and the misuse of the Participatory Notes mechanism by foreign institutional investors.

The members had claimed that much of the trouble could have been avoided if the Centre had taken up the question of misuse of the double taxation avoidance agreement with Mauritius earnestly.

They maintained that Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha should own partial responsibility for the scam.

With the report being held up because of the fracas, the committee has obtained the relevant files for the members' perusal.

The members, after studying the papers, will decide if there are sufficient reasons to ask for an oral deposition by the finance minister.

Sensing the political nature of the demand, the ruling party members have said former finance ministers, including P Chidambaram, should also be cross-examined by the committee.

According to sources close to the committee, given the majority of the ruling combine, it is likely that the JPC will settle for the next best alternative of sending a questionnaire to the minister.

The draft of the questionnaire is expected to be circulated by committee chairman SPM Tripathi at the next meeting.

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