PAC has 10 questions for Urjit Patel & 2 others. If they can't answer it well - Modi's next in line
After summoning Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Urjit Patel, Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa and Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das over demonetisation, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) headed by Congress leader KV Thomas, may call Prime Minister Narendra Modi if it is not satisfied with the answers of these officials.
The PAC has sent a detailed questionnaire to the three officials seeking details about what led to the decision, its impact on the economy and several changes in RBI regulations, among other issues pertaining to demonetisation.
These three - Patel, Lavasa and Das - will have to appear before the panel on 20 January after which the decision to call the prime minister will be taken.
"We have not yet received answers for the questions we have sent to them. They will reply few days before the 20 January meeting. Their replies will be discussed in detail," Thomas told PTI.
When asked whether the PM too can be called for questioning, Thomas pointed out that the panel can call anybody involved in the matter and the decision will be taken depending on what happens at the 20 January meeting.
"We can call PM on demonetisation issue if members unanimously decide," he said.
Thomas went on to add that he had a meeting with the Prime Minister who assured things would normalise after 50 days.
"But it does not look like it," Thomas claimed.
"The PM is misleading the country to satisfy his ego. He is trying to justify his wrong decisions. In a country where there is a call-drop problem and telecom facilities are not smooth, how can the PM expect e-transactions to take place on mobiles? Do we have sufficient infrastructure?" Thomas questioned.
Earlier on Saturday, the parliamentary panel had sent a detailed questionnaire to Patel asking why he shouldn't be prosecuted and removed for abusing the powers vested in him by his office. The panel also sought responses on how much currency was demonetised and how much is back in circulation.
Here is the list of the questions sent by the panel to Patel and others:
1. Union Minister Piyush Goyal has said on the floor of the House that the decision to demonetise was taken by the RBI and its Board. The government merely acted upon this advice. Do you concur?
2. If the decision was indeed RBI's, then when exactly did the RBI decide that it was in India's best interests to demonetise currency?
3. What was the exact rationale laid out by the RBI for this decision to invalidate Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes overnight?
4. RBI's own estimates show fake/counterfeit currency to be a mere Rs 500 crore. India's cash to GDP was 12%, lower than Japan (18%) and Switzerland (13%). High denomination notes as a share of currency was 86% in India, but 90% in China and 81% in US. So, what was so alarming that the RBI decided India needed to demonetise suddenly?
5. When was the notice sent to the RBI Board members calling for an emergency meeting on 8 November? Which of them attended this meeting? How long the meeting did last? And where are the minutes of this meeting?
6. In the subsequent note sent to the Cabinet recommending demonetisation, did the RBI explicitly mention that this decision would mean invalidating 86 per cent of the country's currency and its attendant cost? How long did the RBI say it would take to remonetise?
7. The RBI notification of 8 November, 2016 under Section 3 c(v) issued a restriction on withdrawal from a bank account over the counter to Rs 10,000 per day and Rs 20,000 per week. There was a similar limit of Rs 2,000 per day in an ATM. Under what law and powers of the RBI, were these limitations imposed on people to withdraw their own cash? What gave the powers to the RBI to ration currency notes in the country? If there are no laws that you can cite, why should you not be prosecuted and removed for abuse of power of office?
8. Why have there been so many flip-flops in RBI regulations over the past two months? Please give us the name of the RBI officer who came up with the idea to ink people for withdrawal? Who drafted the notification on marriage related withdrawal? If it was not the RBI that drafted these but the government, is the RBI now a department of Ministry of Finance?
9. How much exactly was demonetised and how much has been deposited back in old currency? What was the expectation of notes to be extinguished when the RBI advised the government to demonetise on November 8?
10. Why has the RBI refused to reveal information under the RTI, citing inane reasons such as fear of personal injury? Why is the RBI not providing information under RTI to queries that come?