SC rejects plea for quashing appointment of SK Sharma as CAG
The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a Delhi High Court verdict which dismissed a petition seeking quashing of the appointment of former Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma as Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), saying it cannot meddle with the constitutional procedure.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a Delhi High Court verdict which dismissed a petition seeking quashing of the appointment of former Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma as Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), saying it cannot meddle with the constitutional procedure.
"We have not seen any good ground," a bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu said while dismissing the appeal against the High Court judgement which had held as valid the appointment of Sharma as the CAG.
The apex court disagreed with the contention of some former bureucrats and defence chiefs that appointment of Sharma as the CAG was bad on the ground that during his stint as the Defence Secretary, he had dealt with defence procurements in his various capacities and there might be a conflict of interest when he prepares audit reports in respect of the those procurements.
"In this case, the only aspect to be considered is that he participated in defence purchases. He can always recuse in such a situation or the investigation may be carried out by the senior most officer of the department. If required, 'doctrine of necessity' may be applied.
"Why should he suffer disqualification unless the account of that period in history is shrouded in mystery, what is the need for raising an alarm. These are constitutional posts. How can we meddle with constitutional procedure," the bench also comprising justices A K Sikri and Arun Mishra said.
The bench declined to pass any order on the submission that guidelines be laid down for the selection process after Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi said that the Constitution has left it to the government to aid and advise the President for appointments to constitutional posts like the CAG.
Rohtagi said, "This is a case of no facts and there is nothing against the man (Sharma) and the case is in air and completely devoid of merits."
The bench was also of the view that since there was no allegation against Sharma there was no ground for disqualification against him.
"If you are in a position to demonstrate that the man suffers from disability, then this court under the power of judicial review can consider to go into it. We don't have such a case here," it said.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioners, argued that the appointment to the post of CAG is being done by the government in an arbitrary manner and the procedure lacked transparency.
"This is a constitutional post with high responsibility. Why should there not be a transparent method. People should be able to send their nominations. Some norms have to be laid down," he said.
Bhushan said the Centre should frame a transparent selection procedure based on definite criteria and constitute a "broad based non-partisan selection" committee which would recommend the most suitable person to the President for appointment as the CAG after calling for applications and nominations.
He said that as per the current procedure, the Cabinet Secretary shortlists the name and sends it to the Prime Minister who in turn recommends it to the President for his assent.
"These are constitutional posts. How can we direct them to call for advertisements. We don't think that would be a better procedure," the bench said while dismissing the plea.
The petition was filed by former Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami and eight other eminent persons -- former Chiefs of Naval Staff Admiral R H Tahiliani and L Ramdas, former Deputy CAG B P Mathur, Kamal Kant Jaswal, Ramaswamy R Iyer, E A S Sarma, all former secretaries of various government ministries, former Indian Audits and Accounts Service officer S Krishnan and former IAS officer M G Devasahayam.
Earlier, the High Court had dismissed the petition, saying no material was brought on record to substantiate the plea questioning the "integrity" and "competence" of the CAG.
The High Court had noted that there was no criminal case against the CAG and moreover, no "disciplinary proceeding" is pending against him.
It had said Sharma, a 61-year-old 1976-batch Bihar cadre IAS officer, has an unblemished service record and his "appointment does not violate the principles of institutional integrity nor was the appointment arbitrary".