New Delhi, April 11: Outgoing public accounts committee chairperson K.V. Thomas today defended his stand that the parliamentary panel could summon anyone from the council of ministers, including the Prime Minister, an issue that had divided the PAC along party lines earlier this year.
Thomas, who is set to sign out this month-end, said the rules allow the PAC to call any cabinet minister, provided it was a unanimous decision of all the members and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha permitted it.
The response, at his parting news conference, came after Thomas, a Congress MP, was asked about the controversy over his suggestion to summon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to explain the decision-making process behind the demonetisation drive.
BJP members, who have a majority in the PAC, had opposed the move to summon Modi.
Thomas today said that since the Prime Minister was the "first among equals", he was technically also a cabinet minister, so he could be summoned too, but added that no ministers could be summoned because of a Speaker's ruling against such a move.
When Thomas wanted to call Modi, the other members of the PAC had referred to "Direction 99 of Directions by the Speaker that ministers shall not be called before the Committee to either give evidence or for consultation in connection with the examination of estimates or accounts relating to any ministry".
Thomas maintained that the PAC as an institution should protect its powers to summon any minister. "It is not about summoning this Prime Minister but all future Premiers," he said.
"All I am saying is that the PAC needs to be strengthened. It is the mother of all parliamentary committees," a PTI report quoted him as saying.
Thomas also responded to reports that the PAC has criticised former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for "passing the buck" on the appointment of Congress leader Suresh Kalmadi as head of the organising committee of the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
"Nothing was done out of the way," he said.