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A DAY after Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman K V Thomas said the panel has the power to summon Prime Minister Narendra Modi also, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, who is a member of the PAC, urged Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan on Tuesday to ask him to “recall” his “unilateral” remarks.
“I wish to bring to your attention the unilateral announcement by PAC Chairman K V Thomas seeking to summon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to appear before it. Such an announcement is wrong and unethical and against the laid out parliamentary procedure and your directions, which do not allow such summons to be issued unless a report is finalised. We fail to understand how the PAC Chairman could make such an announcement without discussion with members of the PAC,” said Dubey in a letter to the Speaker.
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Addressing a press conference in Kerala, Thomas said on Monday, “We have the powers to summon anyone, even the Prime Minister and the ministers.”
The PAC has summoned RBI Governor Urjit Patel and top Finance Ministry secretaries on the demonetisation issue.
In his letter, Dubey cited two provisions of the parliamentary committee. Quoting 55 (I), he said the proceedings of a committee shall be treated as confidential and it shall not be permissible for a member or anyone who has access to its proceedings to communicate, directly or indirectly to the press, any information regarding its proceedings.
He also referred to (1A) of the same rule to point out that “the provisions of clause (1) shall also mutatis mutandis apply to the proceedings of meetings held by the Speaker with the Leaders of Parties and Groups in Lok Sabha.”
Referring to Rule 55 (2), he said “whenever a paper or document, marked ‘secret’ or ‘confidential’ is circulated to the members of the committee, the contents of such paper, document shall not be divulged by any member either in the minute or dissent or on the floor of the House, or otherwise, without the permission of the Speaker… and where such permission has been obtained, any restriction imposed by the Speaker in regard to the manner in which, or the extent to which, the information contained in the document may be divulged, shall be strictly observed.”
Objecting to the panel’s decision to summon key Finance Ministry officials, Dubey said: “I also wish to draw your attention to the fact that the PAC has summoned Finance Ministry officials to appear before it on January 20, 2017, in spite of knowing fully well that they are busy with Budget formation exercise. I wish to bring this to your kind attention and seek your intervention and ask Shri K V Thomas to recall his remarks.”
Dubey is also a member of the parliamentary standing committee on finance, which has also called the Finance Ministry secretaries on January 18. In a letter to the PAC Chairman on Monday, Dubey said it was “inappropriate” to call the top secretaries who are engaged in preparing the Budget.
This is the second time the PAC is seeing a Congress versus BJP divide in the last few months. On July 12 last year, the members had sparred over the constitution of the crucial sub-committee on defence, which was to examine CAG reports on irregularities in a number of defence deals including AgustaWestland.
BJP members had insisted that being the largest party in the panel, they should head the key sub-group. But Thomas had rejected their contention, asserting that it was his prerogative to decide who would head it.