Former chief election commissioner N Gopalaswami,former chiefs of Naval Staff Admiral R H Tahiliani (retd) and Admiral L Ramdas (retd) and some retired bureaucrats,including a former deputy Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG),on Monday filed a PIL in the Supreme Court challenging the appointment of former defence secretary Shashi Kant Sharma as CAG last month.
The nine petitioners have sought setting aside of Sharmas appointment. They have also sought a 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.
Among other grounds of seeking Sharmas ouster,the petitioners have pointed to the many defence deals that were cleared when he was DG (Acquisitions) or Defence Secretary,some of which are under investigation for corruption. The petition is likely to be heard in July.
The deals referred to in the petition include 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 to Italian investigators involved kickbacks of at least Rs 350 crore. The petition also states that the delivery of Russias discarded warship Admiral Gorshkov converted into an aircraft carrier,renamed INS Vikramaditya,originally scheduled to be delivered by August 2008 at a total cost of US$947 million but whose cost has now shot up to US$2.9 billion,has still not been done. This deal was also cleared during Sharmas tenure as DG (Acquisitions) as was the controversial Tatra truck deal,which erupted into a major scam.
The petition says that since these acquisitions were finalised when Sharma was in the Defence Ministry,it would lead to a conflict of interest if,as CAG,Sharma audits these expenditures.
Their petition also refers to an RTI application filed by the petitioners on February 21,2013 seeking information about the system of appointment of CAG. The response sent by the Ministry of Finance,the petition says,clearly shows there is no search committee,no criterion,no system,no call for applications or nominations and is therefore arbitrary pick and choose.
The petition also claimed that the apex courts judgment dismissing the appointment of Central Vigilance Commissioner P J Thomas applies to this case as well.