WITH TWO parliamentary panels calling RBI Governor Urjit Patel and top Finance Ministry secretaries to appear before them on the demonetisation issue, the stage seems set for a political slugfest.
Sources said the Finance Ministry is concerned about the back-to-back depositions of key finance officers just ahead of the Budget.
Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman and senior Congress leader K V Thomas emphasised on Monday that the panel has the power to summon even Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“It is the committee which takes decisions on such matters. Decisions in this regard will be taken only after the January 20 meeting of the PAC. We have powers to summon anyone… Even the Prime Minister and the ministers… that question will come later,” Thomas told reporters in Kerala.
But in a letter to the PAC Chairman, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey said it is “inappropriate” to call top Finance Ministry secretaries at a time when the Budget-making exercise is in progress.
Dubey is a member of the PAC as well as the Department Related Committee on Finance chaired by Congress leader M Veerappa Moily.
Both the committees have asked the RBI Governor and top Finance Ministry secretaries to appear before them in separate meetings.
The finance committee is meeting on January 18, while the PAC is meeting on January 20.
Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das, Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia and Financial Services Secretary Anjuly Chib Duggal had asked the PAC to postpone their meeting till the Budget Session is over, but the commission declined to entertain their request.
“Two committees calling the secretaries from the finance department at a time when the all-important exercise of Budget preparation is on is not appropriate. The Budget is a national exercise. If all the top three secretaries are called for depositions, who will prepare the Budget,” Dubey told The Indian Express.
He said both Thomas and Moily had served as Cabinet ministers and were aware about the functioning of the government. “They should consider calling the officers later,” he said. “The committees should work in the nation’s interest and not in a partisan manner,” Dubey said.
The finance panel, which was earlier scheduled to call the Finance Ministry secretaries on January 11 and RBI Governor on January 18, has decided to hold both the meetings on January 18.
Meanwhile, Thomas expressed confidence about being able to submit a unanimous report. “Ours is a 21-member committee, out of which 12 members are from the BJP… All our decisions on major issues like CWG, 2G, AgustaWestland and KG basin were unanimous. If we are able to produce a unanimous report on such major issues, it will be possible in this issue also,” he said.