<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The discord over the right of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to summon the Prime Minister surfaced at its meeting on Friday, even as the panel issued a ‘consensus’ statement citing a rule that bars finance committees from calling a minister to give evidence or for consultation.Just as the meeting, which was to discuss defence-related matters, began, BJP members—Kirit Somaiyya, Nishikant Dubey and Bhupendra Yadav– opposed the statement of the panel’s chairman KV Thomas that the panel had the right to call Prime Minister Narendra Modi if it was dissatisfied with the response of RBI governor Urjit Patel and finance ministry officials on demonetization. Dubey even said that they would not attend the meetings if the Congress kept such an approach.Thomas tried to explain that he had merely stated that the PAC, in consultation with the Speaker, had the right to call a Prime Minister, if necessary. At this point, BJD leader B Mahtab and AIADMK’s P Venugopal mediated playing peacemakers. Mahtab was then entrusted with the task of drafting a statement on behalf of the panel, which comprised of a majority of BJP members. Citing rule 99, it said “though officials may be called to give evidence in connection with the examination of the estimates and accounts relating to a particular ministry, ministers shall not be called before the committee either to give evidence or consultation in connection with examination of estimates or accounts.”However, it added that “Chairperson, when considered necessary but after its deliberations are concluded may have an informal interaction with the minister.”Earlier this week, Dubey had written to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan asking him to “recall” his “unilateral” remarks.Thomas told the members that at a time when the effort was to strengthen the institute of the PAC, they should refrain from weakening it. Congress members, who came to his defence, also reminded the BJP that when party veteran Murli Manohar Joshi was heading the PAC, he wanted the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to appear before the panel, which was probing 2G spectrum and coal scams.A BJP leader said there was only one instance of a minister being called by the PAC which was in 1996 and that too because he went on his own. The then agriculture minister C Subramaniam had appeared before PAC over a CAG report.Urjit Patel is expected to appear at the next meeting of the committee on January 20.
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