The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) was informed about Union Chemicals and Fertilizers Minister M.K. Alagiri's “private visit” to Maldives during April 17-22 (including journey time), when Parliament was in session.

This was stated by Mr. Alagiri's Ministry, in response to an application filed by RTI activist Subhash Chandra Agarwal.

On the rules and norms to be followed by Union Ministers with regard to their responsibilities and duties towards Parliament before undertaking such pleasure trips, the Ministry said: “Approval of the PMO is required.”

Mr. Alagiri's absence in Parliament, particularly during question hour, came under sharp attack from the Opposition in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj had charged that Mr. Alagiri was “perpetually absent” from the House. Mr. Alagiri's first duty should be towards Parliament and he should take permission from the Speaker for allowing his deputy (MoS Srikant Jena) to reply to the questions.

“Ministers accountable to Parliament”

Raising the issue in the Rajya Sabha, Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley said the Opposition had been bringing up this issue week after week, and added: “All Ministers are accountable to Parliament. However, in this case, are we accepting the position that one Minister is not accountable to Parliament? If this is the case, then we can proceed with question hour.”

Mr. Alagiri has sought permission from the presiding officers of both the Houses to answer questions in Tamil, instead of the normal practice of answering in Hindi or English by the Ministers, as he is more comfortable in his mother tongue. But no decision has been taken on the request, it is learnt.

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