Oil Minister S Jaipal Reddy on Monday rejected senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Murli Manohar Joshi's attack on Home Minister P Chidambaram on the issue of CAG indictment of his ministry for alleged favours to private firms, saying such attacks would harm decision making at higher levels.
Dismissing criticism by Joshi, who is also the Chairman of Public Accounts Committee, and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechuri as baseless, he said the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General is a draft report to which the ministry will respond with an 'open mind' in eight weeks time.
"By making this criticism, I am afraid they are prejudicing the process of objective examination by CAG," he said. CAG after incorporating ministry's comment will table the final report in Parliament after which it will go to PAC. "Why should such a senior member of Parliament be in such a haste."
"It is not very edifying for a senior member like Joshi. He should leave the job to younger people in the BJP and not indulge in this kind of criticism," Reddy said.
Joshi had on Friday attacked the government for alleged favours to companies like Reliance Industries and singled out Chidambaram, who was then finance minister.
He had demanded Chidambram's removal from the Cabinet. Reddy said while the draft CAG report does not make any reference to the USD 4.20 per mmBtu price fixed for Reliance's KG-D6 gas, Joshi has brought in "extrenous matter and singled out Chidambaram (for the decision due to) personal agenda."
The gas price was fixed by an empowered group of ministers of which Chidambaram was part as the then finance minister. "If decisions taken by EGoM is to be critised personally, then there is no shelter for ministers. Decisions taken in EGoM are collective and if such attacks are made, people will be afraid to take decisions."
Rejecting any role in leakage of the draft report of CAG, Reddy challenged Joshi to move privilege notice if he felt the leakage of the report had in any way violated his rights as a member of Parliament.
Reddy said his ministry will give "appropriate response" to the points raised by CAG on audit of Reliance Industries' KG-D6 gas fields, Cairn India's Rajasthan oil block and BG Group-operated Panna/Mukta and Tapti oil and gas fields in eight weeks time.
CAG in its June 8 draft report stated that the oil ministry and its technical arm DGH favoured private firms like Reliance and Cairn India by allowing them to retain entire exploration acreage, turning a blind eye to increase in capital expenditure and giving additional area in violation of Production Sharing Contract.
Refusing to be drawn into points raised by CAG, Reddy said his ministry will approach the report with an open mind. "I am confident CAG will look at our reply with an open mind. If in the final report they come out with criticism on some issues,we will also look at them with open mind,"he said.
Any observation or recommendation in the final report which is accepted by the government, "We will act upon them and if (there are some which are) not agreed upon, we will not act on them," he said.
"I am not saying that CAG observations are baseless. If (there is) some substance, we should be concerned," he said, while asking everyone to exercise restraint till the final report is out.