There is no need for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to present himself before the public accounts committee (PAC) for questioning, because he is accountable to the Lok Sabha as a whole, and not too any group of MPs, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said here on Sunday.
"The Prime Minister's offer to appear before the PAC (over the 2G scam) was a decision taken by him without consulting us. If he had discussed it with me, I would have advised him not to offer to appear before the PAC," Mukherjee said, addressing a meeting of the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee.
However, anxious to dispel any notion of a rift between himself and Manmohan Singh, Mukherjee later clarified that he was making an academic point. His remarks should not be read as opposition to the prime minister.
Mukherjee is the chief mediator with the Opposition on behalf of the government to resolve the deadlock over the nature of the probe into the 2G spectrum scam.
Nearly the entire winter session of Parliament was washed out as the opposition kept insisting — as it still does — on a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) carrying out the probe, and the government unwilling to concede more than a parliamentary affairs committee (PAC) probe.
To break the impasse, Prime Minister Singh announced at the Congress plenary session on December 20 that he was ready to appear before the PAC. He followed it up on December 27 by writing to the PAC Chairman, offering to appear.
"The Prime Minister or any minister should not appear before any committee. Ministers are accountable to the Lok Sabha and not just a part of it," Mukherjee said, adding that a parliamentary committee can call government employees, not ministers.
However, Manmohan Singh as Union finance minister did appear before a JPC formed to probe the securities scam of 1992, Mukherjee recalled.
Rejecting the BJP's demand for a JPC, Mukherjee asked, "What is the need for a JPC? A JPC is not a court or an investigative agency. It does not have the powers to punish the guilty. The angles of criminality, policy matters and financial irregularities had already been taken care of."