No institution in India is completely free from political influence (“Individuals and institutions,” June 24). Whether it is the UPA or the NDA, the fact is that someone of their choice has be seen heading and running these institutions. From sports bodies to the post of Governors, and even in institutions like the CBI, the UGC, the CVC and the CAG, there is power politics, directly or indirectly, at play.
The article concludes thus: “While the authority and majesty of the office of the Prime Minister has to be asserted, and in fact, reclaimed from usurpers such as the CAG, the autonomy and prestige of other institutions must not be diminished in the process.” The application of the abusive term ‘usurper’ to a constitutional functionary cannot be allowed to go unchallenged. May one request the writer to ask himself why Dr. Ambedkar described the CAG as the most important functionary in the Constitution — more important than even the judiciary? Secondly, what powers or authority does or can the CAG ‘usurp’? He issues no orders or directions to the Executive. He merely reports on the decisions and actions of the Executive to Parliament. He certainly goes beyond audit in a narrow sense, and examines procedural irregularity, imprudence, wasteful or infructuous expenditure, absence of cost-effectiveness or ‘value for money,’ impropriety, arbitrary conferment of benefits or patronage from public funds on particular parties, etc. The CAG of India is in good company in examining these aspects. Many Supreme Audit institutions around the world do this. It is in fact their plain duty to do so. ‘Accountability’ is meaningless if these aspects are not examined.
If the Prime Minister has actually been a part of the decision-making process in a given case, and if that decision has come under question, then he cannot escape his share of accountability. It is of course the usual practice of the Executive government in India to respond to uncomfortable queries and comments by trying to distract attention through complaints about the ‘overreach’ of audit. Evidently, the writer has been persuaded by that disingenuous defence.
Thirdly, the Executive government has ample opportunity to explain its position while the audit process is on, and can also explain matters to the PAC in due course. Fourthly, one notes that the writer is anxious that “the autonomy and prestige of other institutions must not be diminished.” Does he mean that the authority and prestige of the CAG may be diminished? Lastly, some might argue that decision-making is of paramount importance and should not be hampered by excessive concern for accountability, probity or rectitude. The writer seems to come close to such a view.
Ramaswamy R. Iyer,