New Delhi, Oct 10: The Delhi High Court Thursday reserved its verdict on a plea that sought Shashi Kant Sharma’s appointment as Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) be quashed on grounds of conflict of interest.
A division bench of Justice B.D. Ahmed and Justice Vibhu Bakhru reserved the judgment after hearing all the parties in the case.
Filed by former chief election commissioner N. Gopalaswami and other eminent people who held important positions in the government, the plea contended that as the government auditor, Sharma would be judging a number of deals that were concluded or cleared when he was defence secretary.
Contesting Sharma’s appointment on the grounds that it was “bereft of transparency”, the petition claimed it was “arbitrary, opaque and made without any procedure and criteria”.
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”, it said.
The petition sought a “transparent selection procedure based on a definite criteria…” be framed for the appointment of the CAG and pleaded for the setting up 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.
He was a joint secretary in the defence ministry (2003-07), the director general of acquisitions in charge of all defence purchases in 2010 and was appointed the defence secretary in July 2011 before being appointed 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 other petitioners are former navy chiefs Admiral (retd.) R.H. Tahiliani and Admiral (retd.) L. Ramdas, former secretaries to the government Kamal Kant Jaswal, Ramaswamy R. Iyer and E.A.S. Sarma, among others.