PAC, Science & Tech panels hold sittings as house meetings come back on track

Regular meetings of parliamentary committees with physical presence of members have begun as two panels - Public Accounts Committee and the Science and Technology held their sitting on Friday and discussed important COVID-19 related matters in Par...

Agencies

The Public Accounts Committee headed by Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury saw an impressive attendance with atleast 13 of the 20 members attending the meeting.

New Delhi: Regular meetings of parliamentary committees with physical presence of members have begun as two panels - Public Accounts Committee and the Science and Technology held their sitting on Friday and discussed important COVID-19 related matters in Parliament House annexe. The Public Accounts Committee headed by Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury saw an impressive attendance with atleast 13 of the 20 members attending the meeting. The panel has two vacancies. While the agenda of the meeting was a discussion on selection of subjects for examination in 2020-21, Chowdhury raised the issue of funding of bodies like PMCARES and the need to audit its income and expenditure. Chowdhury, however, did not name the fund.

Sources said since Chowdhury was raising the issue suo motu, the ruling party members objected to it and cited the precedence of a ruling by KV Thomas in the Purti case where the latter had ruled as chairperson that the matter has to be listed on the agenda of the meeting for it to be taken up. Chowdhury said under Rule 308 of the Parliamentary Committee Rules the expenditure incurred by any public fund on Covid-19 should be made public. Rule 308 states that the PAC has a right to examine the appropriation of funds granted by the House for “expenditure of the Government of India, the annual finance accounts of the Government of India and such other accounts laid before the House as the Committee may think fit”.

PAC also has the right to scrutinize appropriation accounts of the government and the reports of the CAG. The BJP members insisted that the government funds dealing specifically with COVID-19 have not been sanctioned by Parliament nor drawn from the Consolidated Fund of India and hence cannot be taken up by PAC. Though Chowdhury made his point vociferously during the meeting, he refrained from putting the issue to vote and the matter was dropped. A total of 125 subjects have been put up before the PAC for examination during 2020-21. These include 105 matters listed by members of the committee, 13 by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and another seven by others. Other than Chowdhury, those who attended the PAC meeting include Bhupendra Yadav, Jayant Sinha, Rajeev Chandrasekar, Satyapal Singh, Jagadambika Pal, CM Ramesh, Darshana Jardosh, Ram Kripal Yadav, Ajay Misra (all BJP), B Mahtab (BJD), TR Baalu (DMK), Rajiv Ranjan Singh (Lallan)- JDU.


The Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change Standing Committee headed by Congress leader Jairam Ramesh also held its meeting in Parliament House annexe. However, only six members and the Chairperson were present in the meeting that discussed the “preparedness to deal with Covid-19 and other pandemics in future”. The committee has a total strength of 31 but as per the norms a quorum (which is 1/3 of the members) is necessary only when a matter is to be put to vote. Ramesh, who has been insisting that virtual meetings of the parliamentary panels be allowed, expressed his happiness at holding a “most informative and useful” meeting on the issue of Science and Technoloy and COVID-19.
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