Glad to Get Cong Notice, Wanted to Start Public Debate: Rai

New Delhi
Glad to Get Cong Notice, Wanted to Start Public Debate: Rai
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553

Unfazed by Congress leader Sanjay Nirupam's legal notice to him demanding an unconditional apology, former CAG Vinod Rai today said he was rather "happy" about it as the purpose of his book was to initiate a public debate.

At the same time, Rai said that a larger issue needs to be debated on what is the recourse available to a public functionary like CAG "if somebody calls him names sitting in the Public Accounts Committee (PAC)".

The comments came a day after the former MP Nirupam slapped the defamation notice for remarks that the ex-CAG was asked by him to drop the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's name from 2G spectrum allocation report.

"See, in fact, I am very happy that he has sent a legal notice. I am very happy about it, because the purpose of writing this book was to initiate a public debate on a lot of issues that concerns the public and high individuals in government," Rai told PTI in an interview here.

A major controversy has erupted over the content of Rai's new book, titled, The Diary of the Nation's Conscience Keeper - Not Just an Accountant, on various issues he observed during his tenure as CAG from 2008-2013, including on the role of Singh.

On his next course of action, Rai said, "Taking legal recourse is fine. It (notice) will be answered. What is the recourse that an official can take when responsible people like members of Parliament make such allegations against us?"

Nirupam has also taken objection to Rai's remarks that Congress MPs used unparliamentary language in PAC against CAG, which forced the Chairman Murli Manohar Joshi to send a written complaint to the then Lok Sabha Speaker.

"... Obviously it (notice) is a reality and I will have to answer it legally. I will do it, but another thing I want to say is that I held the office of CAG. I was in PAC meetings and that was my responsibility. These very members of Parliament seek parliamentary privileges when they are MPs, and similarly judiciary has its own privileges.

"For a high functionary like CAG, if somebody calls him names sitting in the PAC, then what is the recourse I can take," Rai said.

Without taking any names, Rai referred to a debate held on October 31, 2011, saying "these very members had said that we (CAG) were frauds, that our reports were politically coloured, that our reports need to be withdrawn and also that reports were based on untruths".

The ex-CAG further said that "normally PAC discussions are privileged and secret. It cannot be revealed in the public forum, but after media brought out the fact that legal notice has been issued to me, one of their colleagues who happened to be in the PAC at that time sent me yesterday a letter.

"It was written on November 18, 2011, to all his colleagues (PAC members) and so it is not a secret at all," Rai said while referring to a letter written by the then PAC chairman Joshi to the committee members.

"In the letter, it was said that some members wanted examination of CAG reports to be deferred as they alleged that the reports were based on untruth, fraud and very politically motivated, and wanted the reports to be revised and retabled in the Parliament. All these vituperative utterances were made when I and my officers were sitting there.

"The then (PAC) chairman has reproduced very little of it and he goes on to end the letter saying that the members, who made wild allegations against and cast aspersions on the CAG in the PAC must withdraw their words, and render unqualified apologies to the CAG and abide by the ruling of the Speaker given on the breach of privilege against Krishna Menon, the then defence minister," Rai said.

He, however, said that he would not like to "counter" the charges through the media, and he never did it in the past even when "lot of utterances were made by lots of people."

Nirupam's lawyer has accused Rai of intentionally trying to "defame" the Congress leader and harm his reputation with "motive to sensationalise false, contrived and concocted facts" about persons in public life, including Nirupam for "making personal pecuniary gains" and to boost sale of his book.

"The imputations made by you in the electronic and print media have deeply dented reputation of my client in their estimation and they have started avoiding him. The reputation of my client has taken an irreparable and heavy toll due to your defamatory imputations," Nirupam's lawyer said in the notice to Rai.

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