The Supreme Court on Monday declined to entertain a writ petition challenging the powers of the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) to conduct performance audit relating to allocation of coal blocks and other issues.
A Bench of Justices R.M. Lodha and Anil R. Dave dismissed the petition filed by Arvind Gupta, who sought a declaration that the CAG had no power and authority under Article 149 of the Constitution and under the CAG’s (Duties, Powers and Conditions of Services) Act, 1971 to conduct performance audit of the schemes and policy of the Government of India.
After hearing counsel Santosh Paul, appearing for the petitioner, Justice Lodha told him : “CAG is not a munim [accountant] to go into the balance-sheets. The CAG is a constitutional authority entitled to review and conduct performance audit on revenue allocations relating to the Centre, the States and the Union Territories … and examine matters relating to the economy and how the government uses its resources.”
Justice Lodha told counsel: “The CAG is a constitutional authority who is under a mandate to place before Parliament or the State legislature concerned its findings. It was for Parliament or the respective legislatures to act upon such reports. It was for Parliament to consider, accept, partially accept or reject the CAG’s findings. Ultimately it was for Parliament to take a call on the CAG’s report and say ‘your [CAG] report is misconceived/misplaced and also reject the opinion. Don’t undermine the office of the CAG.’”
“It’s against principles”
The petitioner said the performance audit conducted by the CAG was ultra vires the Constitution. It was in effect authorising the CAG to review or assess a scheme or policy of the government, which was beyond the constitutional authority given to the CAG under Article 149 of the Constitution.
“The Regulations on Audit and Accounts, 2007 framed under the CAG’s (Duties, Powers and Conditions of Services) Act, 1971 empowering the CAG to conduct performance audit was violative of the principles of separation of powers. By conducting a performance audit, the CAG is, in fact, conducting a review of policy decision taken by the government, which is beyond its constitutional mandate. Even the judiciary is not permitted to conduct a review of the policy decisions of the government in view of the constitutional scheme,” the petitioner said.