Veteran politician Murli Manohar Joshi, of the BJP, talks to Panini Anand about the CAG report on the coal scam and the role of the public accounts committee (PAC) of Parliament, which he heads. Excerpts:
Do you think your party, the BJP, did not show faith in the PAC you head by disrupting Parliament throughout the monsoon session?
The PAC is an important committee of Parliament. The disruption happened because the PM and his party started questioning the CAG report—even suggesting that the CAG had malafide intentions, even before the PAC could get the CAG report and respond to it. The government should have appealed to the Opposition to set the matter before the PAC and wait for its response. Ideally, the government and the Opposition should have faith in the CAG, the PAC and Parliament. Today, it seems neither the government nor the Opposition has faith in the functioning of Parliament.
Don’t you think the logjam has damaged the BJP’s image?
In a sense, I’d like to agree with that. But I think it’s because of an unfortunate lack of understanding—even among the MPs—about the role of the PAC.
The Centre and some state governments led by your party have criticised the CAG. What about the accountability of CAG?
If you have a problem, you must have a discussion. You can say the CAG should be selected thus, it should be a multi-body CAG—but please come with proposals at least. Why are you demoralising a constitutional institution? Right now, I don’t want to pass judgement on the CAG report—I’ll do that only after the PAC completes its work on it. If you think the CAG is guilty, impeach him, but don’t harm a democratic institution.
So you have full faith in the CAG?
Why not? In the last three years and more, I have seen many cases in the PAC and I’ve found the CAG fair enough. If you think an individual is doing wrong, impeach him. But a very damaging game has been played—that of defaming democratic and constitutional institutions.
Some people have asked why the BJP didn’t raise objections when the allocations were being made.
This was because the government said the coal-block allocations were meant to generate power, to boost industry. But let me ask, who asked you not to follow proper procedure during allocations?
Your view on auctioning of natural resources?
The basic principle is that natural resources are the property of the nation. They must not be monopolised by this group or that. Imagine a situation in which one group controls natural resources, another the communications sector and so on. See how many crores of rupees such groups pay political parties. In the 2G case, we have seen how one group wanted X as telecom minister and another wanted Y. Is this a democracy? I would call it a ‘corporate-o-cracy’.
Your party MPs threatened to resign during the session. Was that the right approach?
I don’t know where that came from. Quite certainly, resigning or not resigning is not the main issue. How does it improve the situation?
Whatever Murli Manohar Joshi might say (‘Neither govt nor Opposition seem to have faith in Parliament’), we came to know about the corruption in coal allocation because Arun Jaitley asked for the PM’s resignation in that disrupted session of Parliament. How else would we have known that BJP MPs Hansraj Ahir and Prakash Javadekar had filed a case with the CVC in 2010? If things remain within constitutionally bound bodies, then the truth is likely to be kept hidden.
Jaykumar Mudaliyar, Ahmedabad
If the CAG’s audit reports are not to be given due weightage and bypassed or not checked by the PAC, what’s the use of these institutions and committees?
Parshuram Gautampurkar, Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan
We have a parliamentary debate so that the members judge the issue being debated on merit and then vote as per their conscience and the declared principles on which they got elected. Such a vote represents the will of the people. But if we, on the basis of the rule of the whip, force members to vote in a particular way, how can that represent the will of the people? Then the debate is only for TV cameras and cannot influence the course of events.
Arun Kumar, London
Corporate-o-cracy. M.M. Joshi might have woken up late to the phenomenon, but he’s coined a great term.
Javed Mohammad, Delhi
What ever Murili Manhor may say ultimately we came to know to about Coal Curroption because of Arun Jaitley asked for resignation of PM and due to desprution of parliamnet or else how many of us know that Prakash Javdekar filed case with CVC on coal allocation in 2010...if things remain within constituioanlly bodies then it is bound to be kept hidden from people and truth will never come out...
The existence of a PAC is a reflection of the lack of faith in the Indian judicial ststem to try mega-scandals.
A very simple question strikes in my mind if the CAG`s Audit reports are not to be given due weightage and the same are to be by passed and not to be got checked by PAC, then what is the use of these institutions and the committees . Why the Govt. should incur wasteful expenditure on their continuence. In every case of CAG`s report,the PILs shall be filed in the SC and every time,the reports will directly be examined by the court. Should we not allow the things to occur the way we have alredy chosen ( CAG`s report to be tabled before PAC and on findings of PAC,,appropriate action whatever is required is taken). If anyone is not satisfied with what PAC has desired,he is free to approach competent court, as a last resort.
I wonder - are we not wasting precious time of Courts by approaching them in each and every matter by referring to them the matters that can be examined at other level ,of course , comprising of competent bodies .
(1) While the executive and elected representatives of people have a right to point out deficiencies, if any, in CAG’s observations, they cannot question the CAG’s right to work as an independent authority and do its duty of post-facto examination of government transactions. (2) In case of coal block allocations the government has erred and instead of accepting that it has indeed taken decisions which are against interests of revenue, our PM and his ministers are attacking the office of CAG itself. This must be condemned. (3) It is common knowledge that even if CAG demands a review of contracts of doubtful nature, ministers and government officials try to defend incorrect decisions and rarely rescind wrong decisions or contracts which loss of revenue to the State.This is happening for years. (4) Hence we must put in place a system which ensures that ministers and the bureaucracy are made accountable for all their decisions and decisions which result in loss of revenue are cancelled and the guity are punished quickly. PAC is powerless in this regard. (5) As regards the Lokpal bill no party including the BJP has shown any eagerness to get it passed. Reasons are obvious. Leaders of all political parties wish to enjoy fruits of power, without any fear of prosecution by Lokpal.
A parliamentary democracy can be said to be representing the will of the people when the members vote out of their conscience. This is why we have a concept of parliamentary debate, so that the members (who are assumed to be educated on the basics of history, economics and public administration) judge the issue being debated on merit and then vote as per their conscience based on the declared principles on which they got elected. Such a vote represents the will of the people.
But if we, on the basis of rule of the whip, enforce members to vote in a particular way, how can that represent the will of the people? Then of what use is a time consuming debate when it is well known that everyone will vote as per the party whip. This is the reason why now many think that debate is only for the TV cameras and it cannot influence the course of events.
Parliamentary democracy is successful only in matured democracies where people believe in leading a life on the basis of certain moralistic principles, where people act more out of conviction rather than emotion. In Indian conditions, the presidential system of governance is best suited as people get to elect the leader directly. In a society used to hero worship and not principle worship, only the presidential system can function well based on reasonable checks and balances.
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