PIL seeks declaration of Shashi Kant Sharma as CAG illegal and void
The Delhi High Court on Wednesday asked the Union Government to respond to a public interest litigation by nine prominent citizens seeking declaration of the appointment of Shashi Kant Sharma as Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) illegal and void.
The petitioners comprise former Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami, former Chiefs of Naval Staff Admiral R.H. Tahiliani and Admiral L. Ramdas, former Union Government Secretary E.A.S. Sarma and others. They have sought quashing of the appointment of Mr. Sharma as CAG on two grounds: the appointment has been made in an arbitrary ‘pick and choose’ manner without going through any selection process and it is in conflict of interest as Mr. Sharma, earlier in the capacity of the Director-General (Acquisitions) and later as the Defence Secretary, was involved in sanctioning of defence purchases worth thousands of crore, which are to be audited by him as CAG.
Therefore, Mr. Sharma could not sit in judgement over buys of such a huge volume in which he was involved during his stint in the Defence Ministry.
One of the defence deals was the procurement of 12 VVIP choppers for the Indian Air Force from Italy. This deal was cleared by Mr. Sharma in 2010 when he was the Director-General (Acquisitions). The deal worth Rs. 3,500-crore with Anglo-Italian Agusta Westland had been investigated by Italy. The Italian prosecutors had in their charge sheet stated that a kickback of at least Rs. 350 crore was paid to middlemen to swing the deal in the company’s favour. The Central Bureau of Investigation had registered a case against 11 people, including the former chief of the Indian Air Force, in the case, the petitioners said.
Though the Constitution had not prescribed any method for selection of a CAG, but it had to be constitutional, non-arbitrary and in a manner that enabled the selection of the best person for the office. The Supreme Court had repeatedly held that every selection must be after following a process consistent with the rule of law.
An advocate has also filed a separate petition in the matter.
A Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Vibhu Bakhru asked the Government to file affidavits to both petitions by August 8.