Friday, August 8, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

PAC report issue rocks Lok Sabha
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 7
The Opposition today stalled proceedings of the Lok Sabha and triggered off three adjournments before bringing about the final adjournment on the issue of Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) report on defence deals during the Kargil war.

Till the evening, the stalemate on the PAC issue showed no signs of resolving and it seemed that the battle lines were being drawn between the government and the Opposition, both equally adamant on their respective stand.

The government ignored the Opposition’s demand for privilege action against Defence Minister George Fernandes over denial of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) report on arms purchases by the country during the 1999 Kargil war to the PAC.

In between the many adjournments, Leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi convened a meeting of Opposition leaders which came up with a three-point formula to end the impasse. Mr Ramjilal Suman of the Samajwadi Party, Mr Ajai Chakraborty (CPI), Mr Raghuvansh Prasad Singh (RJD) and Mr Ramdas Athavale (RPI) were among those present at the meeting.

However, the ice was not broken as the government was not willing to concede to any of the three demands of the Opposition for different reasons. The Opposition’s demands included making available the CVC report on Kargil arms purchases to the PAC, a full-fledged discussion on the issue which should be replied by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and tabling of all papers relating to the PAC meetings.

The government’s contention was that the PAC report reflected that the CVC had not gone into the Kargil arms purchases as the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had not made available the Kargil arms purchases’ files to the CVC in the first place. The arms purchases files initially sent by the MoD to the CVC pertained to all defence deals each worth Rs 75 crore and above during the 1989-1999 period.

On the second demand the government said that though it was willing to hold a discussion on the issue in the House, there was no need for the Prime Minister to reply and the Opposition should settle for hearing the reply from Mr Fernandes whom it had been boycotting in Parliament for the last 18 months.

As far as the third demand of the Opposition was concerned Mr Fernandes came out with a befitting rejoinder. In response to a question from this correspondent, the Defence Minister said he had personally told PAC Chairman, Mr Buta Singh, to come and inspect the Kargil files as the information contained in them was utmost secret and sensitive from the national point of view.

‘‘Now if an issue is made out of this whether the MoD can prove that such an offer was indeed made or whether this offer was in writing, I can’t help it. One has to believe me,’’ Mr Fernandes said.

Mr Fernandes said the CVC report contained ‘secret and top secret’ documents of the CBI and IB also. ‘‘They (PAC) are asking us to open the CBI and IB documents...tomorrow, they will ask us to open the borders also,’’ he added.

Mr Fernandes recalled that in the past also, the government had declined to give secret documents to the PAC keeping national security interests in mind and cited an example when Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Chairman of the PAC during the Congress regime and the government did not submit certain secret documents to the PAC.

The Lok Sabha was adjourned thrice earlier today by Speaker Manohar Joshi on the PAC issue. The first adjournment came during the question hour. As soon as the House assembled for the question hour, the Opposition demanded suspension of question hour to take up the adjournment notice on the PAC report tabled in the House yesterday.

The Opposition’s contention was that the PAC could not finalise its findings on the defence deals transacted during the 1999 Kargil war because of the refusal of the Ministry of Defence to make a report of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) available to it. They said the House should take up a discussion on the report.

The PAC, in its report submitted to both the Houses yesterday, had said it was unable to review a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on purchases for the Kargil conflict after the Ministry of Defence refused to supply a report on defence deals by the CVC.

The ruling party denied the charge and said the PAC report was ‘fake’ and was even leaked out before it was tabled in the House.

Sensing the mood of the House, the Speaker asked senior leaders to make their submissions why the question hour be suspended to take up the adjournment motion. Both sides prevented each other from making their submissions.

After a 35-minute ruckus the House was adjourned till 12noon. The second adjournment was until 1.30 pm and the third until 2.30 pm. On both these occasions, the proceedings could not last very long.

Amid slogan shouting by the Opposition, Finance Minister Jaswant Singh presented a statement on supplementary demands for grants in respect of Budget 2003-2004.

Mr Somnath Chatterjee (CPM) said that the Prime Minister must come to the House to clarify the matter and alleged that ‘an attempt has been made to cover up the monumental corruption’.

Congress Chief Whip P R Dasmunshi threatened that the Opposition would not cooperate with the Government in conducting the business ‘if they don't behave properly’.

The matter also figured in the Rajya Sabha with Opposition members, including Mr Suresh Pachouri (Congress) and Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav (RJD), wanting to know why full information was not provided to PAC by the government on purchases for Kargil operation. Mr Pachouri was also heard demanding resignation of Mr Fernandes.

Chairman Bhairon Singh Shekhawat intervened immediately and said he would take up the matter at the Business Advisory Council (BAC) meeting. It calmed the Congress members and the proceedings went on smoothly. 


Make PAC proceedings public, says Congress
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 7
The Congress today demanded that the proceedings of the meetings of Public Accounts Committee on defence purchases during the Kargil war be made public.

Congress chief spokesman Jaipal Reddy said that the disclosure of the minutes of the meetings of PAC “would expose many people and give lie to all the canards.’’

He said that a meeting of leaders of like-minded opposition parties decided that the Opposition would make a three-point request to the government through the Speaker.

Mr Reddy said that the three requests were that the Prime Minister gives the reply instead of Defence Minister, account of the proceedings of the PAC meetings be tabled in the House and made available to the MPs and the CVC report on the Kargil war be made available to the PAC.

He said that stalemate in Parliament continued as no agreement could be reached.


BJP for probe into PAC report issue
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 7
The BJP today urged the Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi to declare the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report on ‘Operation Vijay’ as ‘ultra vires’ and demanded an inquiry into how the report was made public before it was laid on the table of the House on August 6.

In a letter to the Speaker, a BJP member of the PAC, Mr Kirit Somaiya, described the procedure followed by the committee chairperson, Mr Buta Singh, as ‘ultra vires’ and ‘illegal’.

He also sought to know whether it was no ‘impropriety’ on the part of the PAC secretariat and the chairman to sign the report before the minutes is circulated and taking into account members’ observations?

Pointing out that the PAC had not given necessary time to members to raise their clarifications, objections to the committee, Mr Somaiya said “the procedure clearly demands that minutes are to be confirmed by the members. 

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