SC rejects plea against appointment of SK Sharma as CAG

The Supreme Court today turned down a PIL challenging the appointment Shashi Kant Sharma as comptroller auditor general. Former CEC Gopalaswami had filed the petition was filed on the grounds of conflict of interest.

The petitioner was asked by the Supreme Court, to approach the Delhi High Court in the matter.

On 23 May Sharma was sworn in as CAG by president Pranab Mukherjee in the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi.

The 61-year old 1976 Bihar cadre IAS officer replaced Vinod Rai, after his superannuation following a five-and-a-half year eventful tenure as the head of the CAG.

A bench headed by chief justice Altamas Kabir asked the petitioners, including former chief of naval staff admiral (retd) RH Tahiliani, to approach the high court which was 'equally equipped to deal with the matter'.

The petitioners had sought setting aside of Sharma's appointment contending that it was made arbitrarily and "without any system for selection, without any selection committee, any criteria, any evaluation and without any transparency".

Additionally, the petitioners sought direction to the centre to "frame a transparent selection procedure based on definite criteria and constitute a broad-based non-partisan selection committee, which after calling for applications and nominations would recommend the most suitable person for appointment as CAG".

Senior advocate Fali S Nariman, appearing for the petitioners, submitted that the intervention of the court was needed in view of the gravity of the matter.

Former chief of naval staff admiral (retd) L Ramdas, former deputy CAG BP Mathur, Kamal Kant Jaswal, Ramaswamy R Iyer, EAS Sarma, all former secretaries of various government ministries, former Indian Audits and Accounts Service officer S Krishnan and former IAS officer MG Devasahayam are the other petitioners besides Gopalaswami and Tahiliani.

The petitioners contend that during his tenure as the DG (acquisitions) or as the defence secretary, Sharma cleared several major defence purchases some of which had caused embarrassment to the centre.

Among the the defence deals referred in the petition are procurement of 12 VVIP choppers from Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland for the Indian Air Force at a cost of Rs 3,500 crore, which according Italian investigators said involved kickbacks of at least Rs 350 crore.