Thomas PACs a Punch, Highlights Precedents

Economic Times, January 13, 2017

Even as a BJP member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) registered protest with the Lok Sabha Speaker -besides planning to raise it in the panel meeting on Friday -against Chairman KV Thomas’s statement to the media that PAC (which has also taken up the note recall issue) had powers to call the Prime Minister, Thomas asserted that he was being factually correct on the powers of the PAC members.

Thomas also cited “precedents“ of PAC summoning Union ministers twice in the past and said a former chairman (Murli Manohar Joshi) wanted the then PM Manmohan Singh to appear before the panel.The then BJP members had supported Joshi’s call and Singh had given in writing his readiness to appear before the panel, Thomas said.

“What I had stated is very clear. That the PAC, which functions on the principle of consensus, has decided to take up the issue of demonetisation and we are only in the process of deciding future course of deliberations. When media persons further asked whether PAC can call the Prime Minister, I had said nothing of that sort has been decided yet and it is up to the members of the PAC. If they decide to call the PM, they can,“ Thomas told ET.

Thomas said: “ Anybody carefully studying the functioning of PAC will see that there were precedents of PACs summoning serving senior Union ministers. In 1966, on being called by PAC, the then (agriculture) minister C Subramaniam (of Congress) appeared before the committee when it was discussing a CAG report. Again in 1992, PAC called the then Union Finance Minister (Manmohan Singh) when it was discussing the Harshad Mehta scandal.“

Thomas also cited a precedent of PAC chairman demanding the appearance of a serving PM before it and the latter expressing his readiness to do so. “I remember, the t h e n PAC Chairman Murli Manohar Joshi demanded that the then PM Manmohan Singh appear before it when it was discussing the 2G issue. It is a fact that Manmohan Singh expressed his readiness to appear before the PAC, “Thomas said. But that never happened as after that PAC was a victim of Congress-BJP slugfest.

Though PAC (which will take up the issue of codifying the defence assets) won’t discuss note recall on Friday, some members, it is learnt, might seek clarification from the chairman regarding the reported questionnaire sent by PAC to the RBI chief before his slated appearance on January 20.The members insisted PAC “has no practice“ of sending advance questionnaire to witnesses.

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