Sharma joins Tiwari to blast CAG, hit at Supreme Court
18 October 2013
India's commerce and industries minister Anand Sharma has become the latest – and perhaps most important – member of the Congress-led UPA government to be drafted in to accuse the Comptroller & Auditor General of India of (CAG) of spoiling India's investment atmosphere with allegations of large-scale corruption.
Sharma told a TV channel that it all started with the CAG's ''shocking'' claim of a Rs1.76 lakh crore loss to the exchequer by the improper sale of 2G spectrum and licences in 2008.
This finding was lapped up by everyone in the opposition, including the Bharatiya Janata Party, and by the media to create a sensation; following which the judiciary subsequently stepped in, he said.
"First it was CAG which made the shocking claims of presumptive losses ... the constitutional bodies have to be balanced and whatever they say should be in proportion to what actually is the ground realty," Sharma said.
"The judiciary stepped in even before the Parliament took cognisance. So over-reach whether by CAG or the judiciary … we have to take note ... but we also have to bear in mind that it is the nation which bears the painful economic consequences that is why I am talking of very careful analysis of any view any decision and judgement," Sharma said.
Elsewhere in Delhi, he told newspersons that there should be a distinction between "bona fide" and "improper" decisions, so that bureaucrats are not punished after retirement.
''Retired civil servants who have taken bona fide decisions during their tenure do not deserve punishment post-retirement. That would affect the decision-making process and governance," Sharma said.
Asked whether the recent developments in coal block allocation case would lead to a fear psychosis among bureaucrats and delay decision-making, he said, "Yes I feel so."
Sharma fumed at the CAG for casting an atmosphere of suspicion and distrust over one after another sector - telecom, power, mining and coal. He said the government's decisions were being unfairly being viewed with suspicion.
"Our decisions as government, our policies have been correct. You have to make a distinction between a bona fide decision and a dishonest decision. Does the government have the power to review a decision? The answer is 'Yes'. Should the government be open to suggestions, or representation of corporate leaders? The answer is in the affirmative," he said.
In a veiled blast at the CAG and the courts, Sharma said the government has not interfered in the functioning of constitutional bodies. "The government has not asked the CAG to write all these theories. The government did not ask the Supreme Court to step in. The government did not ask the Supreme Court to give a (investigation) directive to the CBI. Where does the government come in? In fact, the government is unfairly blamed," he said.
Sharma's cabinet colleague, information & broadcasting minister Manish Tiwari, was even more vituperative last month. "One of the greatest damages done to this country was by the former CAG (the 'activist' Vinod Rai)," Tewari, formerly the Congress's chief spokesman, had told an education conclave in Delhi.
"Rather than the J-virus, it was the R-virus (Rai) that derailed the growth story," Tiwari had said, largely referring to the telecom scam unveiled by the CAG.
Experts generally agree that the CAG's various estimates based on different criterion of the spectrum loss may have been on the excessive side, but point out that the allocation of spectrum was clearly ''improper'' – to use Sharma's terminology – and the scandal would never have come to light but for the CAG report.