House keeper is crorepati - LS secretary-general guards cash flashed in Parliament

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By JAYANTH JACOB in Delhi
  • Published 28.07.08
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New Delhi, July 28: You may not have noticed him on TV on trust vote day. A serious-looking 63-year-old with a moustache, he had no chance in the eyeball stakes against wads of cash being waved by MPs.

But P.D.T. Achary, who sat a few feet in front of Somnath Chatterjee in Parliament and had a hard time explaining the voting rules in the din, can now permit himself a chuckle. The money — all one crore of it — is now his prisoner, locked away in a cabinet.

A smile of satisfaction does, perhaps, cross his face as the Lok Sabha secretary-general walks into his office in the morning and makes sure the seal on the almirah is intact. He betrays no nervousness in the evening when he steps out of room No. 18 in Parliament House and heads for his 33 Aurangzeb Road residence.

“The money is safe and sealed in my room. There is a guard keeping watch over it. There is also 24-hour security for the room,” the Lok Sabha secretariat’s topmost official told The Telegraph.

Achary admits he cannot remember a time in his 35 years in the secretariat when a House official’s chamber was so flush with cash. “There has never been such a situation,” he said.

He should know, having handled an assortment of departments, including conference and protocol; Parliament questions; members’ services; members’ salaries and allowances; budget and payment; works and general; interpreters; and sales and records.

The Kerala-born bureaucrat explained why the money — allegedly paid to three BJP members of Parliament to buy their votes — was in his custody.

“It’s evidence. The Speaker has already received the complaint, and if a House committee wants to see the amount, they can take an easy look, too.”

The secretariat officially received the three MPs’ complaint yesterday and the Speaker, Achary said, would “take action as soon as possible”.

Achary, known for his vast knowledge of parliamentary procedures, happens to be an expert on certain ways in which lawmakers have often earned money outside of their House salary -- alleged bribes apart.

He has written the acclaimed Office of Profit, which explains the history of the concept as it emerged in England. The book also traces the history of the office-of-profit law in India and contains a comparative study of English and Indian law. His other books on law and parliamentary conventions include Speaker Rules and Law of Elections.

Still, MPs would hardly allow him to brief them in the minutes before the July 22 vote. Achary got up several times and then had to sit down because of the ruckus -- and also because convention requires him to sit whenever the Speaker stands up – before he could finish the job.

The bureaucrat, however, stayed a picture of calm, as befits a man whose interest in religious philosophy has led him to author books such as Sabarimala: A Pilgrimage of the Soul, Sree Narayana Guru: A Revolutionary Saint, and Rigveda and Bible: Striking Similarities.

Achary, born in Kadammanitta in Pathanamthitta district, assumed his current office on August 1, 2005, and will retire on July 16, 2009, a day before his 64th birthday.