PAC buckles under pressure from BJP MPs

Says PM can't be summoned over demonetisation

PAC buckles under pressure from BJP MPs
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Friday rejected its chairman K V Thomas’s view on summoning Prime Minister Narendra Modi over demonetisation, citing a rule that bars summoning ministers, following strong objections from BJP MPs.

 The committee issued an official statement referring to the “Direction 99 of Directions by the Speaker” which states that “though officials may be called” but not the “ministers” to “give evidence or for consultation” to examine estimates and accounts for a ministry. Ministers include the prime minister as well.

However, it said, the “chairperson, when considered necessary, but after its deliberations are concluded, may have an informal interaction with the minister”.

The issue came up as a controversy erupted following Thomas’s remarks that the committee could call the prime minister if it is not satisfied by the deposition of Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Urjit Patel and finance ministry officials on note ban.

BJP MPs Nishikant Dubey, Bhupinder Yadav and Kirit Somaiya raised the issue during a meeting of the PAC and insisted that the panel cannot summon the prime minister, as it has no such powers.

Soon after Thomas’s remarks became public, Dubey wrote a letter to Thomas saying it was “wrong, unethical and against laid out parliamentary procedures”.

Sources said Thomas clarified that what he meant was the committee can summon the prime minister if the panel takes a unanimous view. He cautioned against “killing the institution”.

A similar row had erupted in 2013, when BJP MP Murli Manohar Joshi, who was leading PAC, had said former prime minister Manmohan Singh can be asked to appear before the parliamentary watchdog in the 2G scam. The ruling Congress had objected to it.

Subsequently, the Joshi-led committee had summoned principal secretary to Singh to give evidence on the scam, recalled a member of that PAC.

He had agreed to come, but could not present himself before members due to ruckus created by the Congress members at that point of time. Subsequently, the panel withdrew its decision, he pointed out.

A BJP member claimed that they were not briefed on the chairman’s decision to summon the prime minister and the questionnaire was sent to secretariat without taking the members into confidence, alluding to a disconnect between the chair and ruling members.

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