South Asia

India announces cross-party probe into telecoms scandal

Manmohan Singh
Image caption Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said anyone found guilty over the scandal would be punished

India's prime minister has given in to opposition calls for a cross-party probe into a telecoms scandal believed to have cost India $40bn (£24.5bn).

The opposition's daily demands for a comprehensive inquiry held up the last session of parliament, putting crucial legislation on hold.

"Our country can ill afford a situation when parliament is paralysed," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said.

A police investigation into the multi-billion dollar scandal is under way.

It will examine whether mobile phone licences were sold at below-market prices in 2008 in exchange for "kick-backs".

Former telecoms minister A Raja was arrested in early February in connection with the allegations. He denies all the charges.

Mr Singh has vowed to punish those found guilty of fraud.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had threatened to disrupt the current budget session of parliament unless the government agreed to set one up.

"It is in this special situation that the government agrees to the setting up of a joint parliamentary committee," Mr Singh said.

Opposition parties have welcomed the creation of the committee.

Correspondents say the announcement will end the political deadlock and allow the critical budget session of parliament to go ahead.

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