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SC tells petitioners to move high court on CAG appointment
Monday July 15, 2013 8:41 PM, IANS

The Supreme Court Monday asked former chief election commissioner N. Gopalaswami to move the Delhi High Court and declined to entertain his plea seeking the quashing of the appointment of former defence secretary Shashi Kant Sharma as the CAG.

"Go to high court," said the apex court bench of Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice F.M.I. Kalifulla and Justice Vikramajit Sen as senior counsel Fali Nariman raised the plea before the court.

The public interest litigation seeking the setting aside of the appointment of Sharma as the chief government auditor was filed by Gopalaswami and several other former government officials.

The petitioners contested Sharma's appointment on the grounds that it was bereft of transparency.

Sharma's posting as CAG was "arbitrary, opaque and made without any procedureand criteria", the petition said.

The appointment was "liable to be declared non est or void as it is made arbitrarily by a procedure that does not withstand the test of constitutionality, also on the ground of conflict of interest", the petition said.

The petition sought the framing of a "transparent selection procedure based on a definite criteria..." for the appointment of CAG and pleaded for the setting up of a "broad-based non-partisan selection committee, which after calling for applications and nominations would recommend the most suitable person for appointment as the CAG to the president".

Sharma was placed in a position of conflict of interest as he would be examining some of the allegedly controversial defence deals that were concluded during his tenure in the defence ministry, the petition said.

Sharma was a joint secretary in the defence ministry (2003-07), the director general of acquisitions in charge of all defence purchases (in 2010), and appointed as the defence secretary in July 2011 before being appointed as the CAG, the petition said.

The petitioners contended that the CAG under Vinod Rai (since retired) had also made serious observations in the recent past on the defence ministry's procurement policy.

The CAG earlier noted that between 2007-11, India concluded five offset contracts in the defence sector worth Rs.3,410 crore that were not in consonance with the provisions laid down in the defence procurement procedure.

Besides Gopalaswami, the petition was moved by former Naval chiefs Admirals (retd) R.H. Tahiliani and L. Ramdas, three former secretaries to the government Kamal Kant Jaswal, Ramaswamy R. Iyer and E.A.S. Sarma, among others.

In another related plea challenging the procedure for the appointment of CAG, the apex court asked petitioner advocate Manohar Lal Sharma to move the high court to raise his contention.

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