Q&A: Ashwini Kumar, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs

'PAC draft report has no sanctity'


Indivjal DhasmanaSanjeeb Mukherjee New Delhi
A draft report of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on 2G scam has created a rift between the ruling UPA and the opposition BJP. The Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ashwini Kumar tells Indivjal Dhasmana and Sanjeeb Mukherjee about the sanctity of the report, reconstitution of PAC, expected turmoil in the next session of Parliament and the fate of economic and financial bills. Edited excerpts:
How far is it constitutionally correct to appoint a ruling party member as the PAC chairman?
No one from the ruling party has been appointed as the chairman. The chairman is always appointed by the (Lok Sabha) speaker. It is her prerogative. For that meeting, because there was a walkout, eleven members asked somebody to depute for themselves. It is not that somebody was appointed the chairman of the PAC.
What happens to the draft PAC report?
This draft report, in my personal opinion, has no sanctity as it has not been deliberated upon, it has not been finalised after a consensus. Because paragraph wise consideration of the draft has not been done by full PAC, the so called draft report, cannot be acted upon. Therefore, it now remains for the new committee to either start afresh or take it from where it was left out. It is only after processes of finalisation of the draft are carried out in accordance with the established parliamentary practices that the report can be submitted to the speaker, who then in her wisdom and judgement decide what to do.
As the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs how will you take on board BJP who seems to be quite upset over the whole episode? If they boycott the reconstitution of PAC, how will you take them on board?
We will cross the bridge when we come to it. This is purely a conjectural issue. I don’t think there is any difficulty in the constitution of PAC. Who will be the chairman and how the meetings will be conducted in the future will be the issue.
Do you foresee greater turmoil in the next session of Parliament, after uproar over PAC draft report?
I sincerely hope the functioning of Parliament is not stalled. Parliament remains and has always been the highest forum of Indian democracy. It is a forum of constructive criticism and meaningful debate. There is no issue that cannot be discussed or debated. I sincerely hope the opposition will not stall functioning of the Parliament. Both, the ruling party and the opposition will have to work together in the spirit of constructive engagement so the Parliament does not lose its relevance or efficacy and continues to serve as the final and highest forum of debate as far as India’s democratic polity is concerned.
Crucial financial sector bills like insurance bill, pension reforms bill, banking laws (amendment) bill are pending in Parliament. How do you plan to pass them in the current scenario of mistrust between the ruling coalition and the main opposition?
It will be our endeavour to bring before the Parliament key legislations which relate to economic and financial ministries. I hope and pray that we are able to do so in the monsoon session in July.
Do you see undermining of parliamentary democracy from the behaviour of the two largest parties — the Congress and the BJP?
Parliamentary democracy should never be undermined. It takes two to tango. The ruling party has an obligation to make the Parliament run, but so is the opposition which is equally responsible for ensuring its conduct in a manner that functioning of Parliament is not derailed or stalled.

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First Published: May 01 2011 | 12:09 AM IST

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