Even as Public Accounts Committee Chairman Murli Manohar Joshi is reported to be exploring the possibility of submitting the contentious draft report on the 2G affairs to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, there are others who hold the view that without following the procedure for approval of the report, he cannot put his signature or submit it.
The Speaker, now in Arunachal Pradesh, is expected back here on Saturday evening, last day of the tenure of the existing PAC. Even if Mr. Joshi continues as Chairman (this question has yet to be decided by the Speaker) for the next one year from May 1, the PAC composition will change and the process of adopting the report by the new Committee will have to be complied with before it is submitted to the Speaker.
A senior BJP leader gave a hint of the party's thinking. He said: “The report is not dead. Whether it is tabled in Parliament or not, it is already with the people, and this is what matters. It has already gone down in history.”
The former Secretary-General of the Lok Sabha, P.D.T. Achary, is not willing to comment on the politically sensitive matters in the report, but he did say: “The procedure for adoption is clear. The Chairman circulates the draft report among members and gives them enough time to read it and cross-check it against documents and evidence on record before the Committee. He then fixes up a meeting where the report is taken up for discussion paragraph by paragraph and every member is entitled to suggest amendments. On the basis of suggestions, a consensus is arrived and duly noted by the secretariat before moving on to the next paragraph or chapter. After a consensus on the entire report, the final report is prepared, signed by the Chairman and submitted to the Speaker along with the minutes of the meetings approving the draft.” The PAC tradition is that all reports are finalised by consensus and there are no dissent notes. This is the first time the PAC report has become so contentious.
In the present context, without the approval of the Committee, “it cannot be submitted to the Speaker,” said Mr. Achary.
On the issue of the Congress, DMK, BSP and SP members on the Committee “electing” Professor Saifuddin Soz to chair the second session of Thursday's meeting after Dr. Joshi walked away, the generally accepted view is “that election of the Chairman” and “voting” by the 11 ruling coalition MPs and their supporters rejecting the report cannot be valid or legal. “The PAC, by tradition, has been headed by a member of the Opposition; it is the Speaker who nominates the Chairman from amongst the members, and he has to be from the Lok Sabha,” said one official who did not want to be identified.
Sources close to Dr. Joshi indicated on Friday he was busy examining the “the serious charges” made by some members that the report had been “outsourced,” that is, it was not entirely prepared by the PAC secretariat. If these charges were proved true, then “there is no draft PAC report,” but clearly no one in the BJP believes that this was possible at all. “Such an eventuality will bring the entire Lok Sabha secretariat into disrepute,” the sources said.
Dr. Joshi's office rejected the charge that the minutes of every meeting were not circulated to members. “Yes, transcripts of the evidence before it were not circulated, but could be examined in the PAC office by any member after seeking the Chairman's approval. Annexures were not sent with the draft report as all members already had photocopies of documents received from various Ministries, including the Prime Minister's Office,” it was said.
On the report leaking to the media before it reached PAC members, the BJP blamed the Congress, saying it was part of a conspiracy to defame the Chairman. The Congress, however, was firm. Its members did not have the reports. They received their copies well after the media got them. And, above all, it was not in the interest of the party to “leak” the report that made serious allegations against its government and Ministers. “The charge that the Congress leaked the report is blatantly absurd,” Aruna Kumar and K.S. Rao, said party members on the PAC.