Delhi HC dismisses pleas challenging CAG's appointment
The Delhi High Court Wednesday dismissed two separate pleas seeking the quashing of Shashi Kant Sharma's appointment as Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) on grounds of conflict of interest.
A division bench of Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Vibhu Bakhru dismissed the pleas which contended that as the government auditor, Sharma would be judging a number of defence deals that were concluded or cleared when he was defence secretary.
In the 74-page judgement, the court held that Sharma has had an "unblemished record" and, therefore, the "integrity aspect cannot also be doubted".
"Neither on integrity nor on competence, is there any material to substantiate the plea of the petitioners that he was not eligible for appointment as the CAG," the bench said.
The court further held that there was no "disciplinary proceeding" pending and "no criminal case" against the CAG.
"There is no disciplinary proceeding pending against him. There is no criminal case pending against him. There is only a supposition on the part of the petitioners that as he had dealt with defence procurement in his various capacities in the past, there might be a conflict of interest when he prepares audit reports in respect of the defence procurements," the bench said.
It also held that this was merely a "surmise, conjecture and presumption" on the part of the petitioners in so far as the audit report in respect of purchase of helicopters is concerned.
One petition was moved by a group of eminent people who held important positions in the government, including former chief election commissioner N. Gopalaswami, while the second plea was filed by lawyer M.L. Sharma.
They urged the court to direct the government to "frame a transparent selection procedure based on definite criteria" for appointing the CAG.
The plea stated that the appointment should be "fair and transparent" so that a competent person is appointed.
It was submitted that Sharma's appointment was "arbitrary" as it has been made without any transparency or procedure and without any call for applications.
The high court had clubbed the two public suits, one filed by Gopalaswami and others and another filed by advocate M.L. Sharma.
Besides Gopalaswami, the petition was moved by former navy chiefs Admiral (retd.) R.H. Tahiliani and Admiral L. Ramdas, former secretaries to the government Kamal Kant Jaswal, Ramaswamy R. Iyer and E.A.S. Sarma, among others.
(Posted on 14-08-2014)
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