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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 22, May 21, 2011

PAC: Its History and Relevant Facts

Tuesday 24 May 2011, by Era Sezhiyan



The following is a statement by Era Sezhiyan, a former MP and erstwhile Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). It reached us late; but we are still using it in view of its continued relevance.

It is unfortunate that there had been reports about the unprecedented disquiet and discord in the deliberations of the PAC on April 28, in consideration of the Draft Report on the 2G scam. A Parliamentary Committee enjoys all the powers, privileges and immunities of the Houses of Parliament as given under Article 105 of the Constitution. As such, it is improper for anyone outside the House to make any unwarranted comments on the said proceedings of the Committee.

However, it is desirable for the public to know the important functions of the Public Accounts Committee as a watch-dog Committee of Parliament to ensure that the moneys granted by Parliament have been spent effectively, efficiently and economically. In this regard the PAC gets invaluable reports and sifting analysis of the Comptroller and Auditor General and his officers.

In the UK, the Public Accounts Committee was formed in 1871 as a Select of the Commons and it has become a role model for other countries adopting the Westminster system of parlia-mentary democracy.

UNDER the Constitution of India, the PAC was formed in 1951 as a Standing Committee with 15 Members of the Lok Sabha. In 1954-55, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru agreed to have the PAC with 15 Members from the Lok Sabha and seven from the Rajya Sabha elected by the Members of the respective House every year under the system of proportional representation by means of a single transferable vote. Still it is a Committee of the Lok Sabha as per the practice in the UK Commons and under Rule 258, the Speaker appoints the Chairman of the Committee from amongst the Lok Sabha Members of the Committee.

Till 1966-67, the Chairman of the Committee was a senior Congressman. In 1967, it was decided that as in the UK and in many States in India, the Speaker was to appoint a Member from the Opposition in consultation with the Leader of the Opposition or with the Leader with the largest number of Members in the Opposition.

Accordingly, the following were appointed to head the PAC: M.R Masani (1967-69), A.B. Vajpayee (1969-71), myself (Era Sezhiyan 1971-73), H.N. Mukerjee (1973-75). Though all of us were uncompromisingly active against the ruling party in the House, we were able to get the full support and collective responsibility of all Members in the Committee beyond the party affiliations. During my tenure of two years, the Committee was able to submit a record number of 95 Reports.

I remember well that in 1966 there was a censorious remark in a PAC Report about the Ministry of Agriculture. Provoked by that Report, C. Subramaniam, the Minister of Agriculture, whose successful efforts in the Green Revolution was appreciated by all, offered and appeared before the Committee to give his explanations. At that time, the Chairman of the PAC (1964-67) was R.R. Morarka, a senior Congress Member. Therefore, the deliberations and adverse remarks did not disturb the smooth working of the Committee and did not cause an intolerable dispute under political considerations.

At that time, there was no limit on the term of the Chairman and Members in the Committee. In March 1959, a convention was initiated not to elect a member for more than two consecutive terms. The present PAC was constituted on May 5, 2010 and its one-year term will be till May 4, 2011. It is for the Speaker and later for the House to take a decision to resolve the issue according to the Rules of Practice and Procedure and on the precedents established.

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