In his continuing battle with Congress members, PAC Chairman Murli Manohar Joshi on Tuesday asked them to tender “unqualified apology” to CAG Vinod Rai for their “wild allegations” against him.
Mr. Joshi, a senior BJP leader, also rejected the Congress members’ demand that Mr. Rai should not be present at the Committee proceedings when a retired CAG official R.P. Singh deposes before it.
In the wake of Congress members attacking the CAG in PAC meetings, Mr. Joshi seemed to suggest that Congress MPs can impeach if they are not happy with the CAG but they cannot make allegations against him in the PAC.
In a ruling, he maintained that the controversial draft report on 2G issue, in which the PAC was critical of the Prime Minister, his office and the then Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, and the 3G spectrum allocation, stands circulated to members.
The Congress members had contented that the draft report was rejected by the Committee and was not in order.
Referring to allegations by Congress members that all the reports of the CAG were based on “untruth”, “fraud” and “politically motivated”, Mr. Joshi reminded the members that no allegations can be referred or defamatory remarks made against the CAG, who is accorded the status of a judge of the Supreme Court.
“No allegations can be levelled against the CAG nor motive attributed to his findings. If honourable members have ground to believe that CAG has exceeded its jurisdiction or his findings are not based on facts, they are at liberty to seek remedy under the Rules of Procedure and the procedure prescribed for the purpose,” he said.
Mr. Joshi said “the honourable members who made wild allegations against, and cast aspersions on, the CAG in the PAC must withdraw their words and render unqualified apologies to the CAG and abide by the ruling of the Speaker on the notice of breach of privilege against Krishna Menon, the then Defence Minister.”
He said being a person in high authority and under oath to discharge his duties “to the best of his ability, knowledge and judgement, without fear or favour, affection or ill will,” the Constitution guarantees his independence.
The CAG’s conduct can be impeached only on a substantive motion by taking recourse to the procedure prescribed in the Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968.
The Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business, read with the Judges (Inquiry) Act, enjoin that a member shall not make allegation of defamatory or incriminatory nature unless the notice of the substantive motion is drawn in proper terms signed by requisite number of members and duly approved by the Speaker.
Mr. Joshi said when no derogatory remarks can be made against the CAG on the floor of the House, no allegations can be made against him in the PAC either.
He referred to an instance of attack on the CAG by the then Defence Minister Krishna Menon on the CAG in 1960 and the Speaker’s ruling in which it was said nothing shall be said against CAG’s remarks whatever he might say and however strong the language that might have been used.
The Defence Minister then expressed his unqualified regrets and withdrew his remarks.