Petition in High Court against CAG's appointment

Petition in High Court against CAG's appointment

A petition has been filed in Delhi High Court seeking the quashing of Shashi Kant Sharma's appointment as Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) on grounds of conflict of interest.

The plea alleged that as the government auditor, Sharma would be judging a number of defence deals that were concluded or cleared when he was defence secretary.

The Supreme Court had asked former chief election commissioner N. Gopalaswami, one of the petitioners, to move the Delhi High Court and declined to entertain his plea seeking the quashing of Sharma's appointment.

The plea is likely to come up for hearing July 24.

The petition was moved by a group of eminent people, who held important positions in the government and the Election Commission. They urged the court to direct the government to "frame a transparent selection procedure based on definite criteria" for the appointment of the CAG.

The petitioners contested Sharma's appointment on the grounds that it was "bereft of transparency". Sharma's posting as CAG was "arbitrary, opaque and made without any procedure and criteria", the petition said.

The appointment was "liable to be declared non est or void as it is made arbitrarily by a procedure that does not withstand the test of constitutionality, also on the ground of conflict of interest", the petition said.

It sought the framing of a "transparent selection procedure based on a definite criteria..." for the appointment of CAG and pleaded for the setting up of a "broad-based non-partisan selection committee, which after calling for applications and nominations, would recommend the most suitable person for appointment as the CAG to the president".

Sharma was placed in a position of conflict of interest as he would be examining some of the allegedly controversial defence deals that were concluded during his tenure in the defence ministry, the petition said.

Sharma was a joint secretary in the defence ministry (2003-07), the directorgeneral of acquisitions in charge of all defence purchases (in 2010) and was appointed the defence secretary in July 2011 before being appointed the CAG, the petition said.

The petitioners contended that the CAG under Vinod Rai (since retired) had also made serious observations in the recent past on the defence ministry's procurement policy.
The CAG earlier noted that between 2007-11, India concluded five offset contracts in the defence sector worth Rs.3,410 crore that were not in consonance with the provisions laid down in the defence procurement procedure.

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.

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