"I have ruled out calling Vajpayee and former Defence Minister George Fernandes as witnesses due to their ill health," Chacko said. He lamented that the names of Vajpayee and Fernandes cropped up in the list of suggested witnesses prepared by the JPC secretariat.
"There were suggestions. I lament that their names were there...there is no question of calling them," he said. While Vajpayee's name was suggested as he had held the Telecom portfolio after Jagmohan resigned during the NDA rule, Fernandes had headed a GoM on Telecom in the NDA regime.
During one of the meetings, BJP's Yashwant Sinha had reacted angrily to the inclusion of Vajpayee's name in the list. Sources said there was general feeling in the committee that ministers, both former and present, were not required to be called before it as sufficient material was available with it to prepare report as per the terms and reference of the Joint Parliamentary Committee.
Chacko said he has started meeting members individually to finalise the list of witnesses by seeking to delete names which are "not relevant."
"The committee feels that there should be no more extension. I am meeting all the 30 members individually to finalise the list of witnesses. Names not essential should be deleted as some names earlier suggested by members could not be relevant today," he said.
He said next week CBDT will depose, followed by CBI and then officials of DoT and Finance Ministry. "By the time we end with these, I hope to finalise the list," he said. In reply to a poser, Chacko said "seven or eight" members have given their suggested list of witnesses in writing to the committee while the rest have made oral suggestions.
Asked by when he would start writing the draft report, Chacko said he was "not sure about it". "We need two months to discuss the draft before it is finalised and tabled in the Winter session of Parliament," he said.
The terms of reference of the JPC formed last year were to examine the telecom policies followed from 1998 to 2009 and whether there had been any aberrations.