The Supreme Court today sought a response from the Centre on a PIL assailing the procedure for appointment of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) on grounds that it is “not independent, fair and transparent” and violated the constitutional mandate.
A bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud took note of the submissions of senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for the PIL petitioners, that the existing system of the executive appointing the CAG lacks transparency.
The bench, also comprising justices JB Pardiwala and Satish Chandra Sharma, issued notices to the union ministries of Law and Justice and Finance on the PIL filed by Anupam Kulshreshtha and others.
The plea sought a direction to “declare that the procedure adopted for the appointment of CAG is against the mandate of the Constitution of India and the same is not independent, fair and transparent”.
Article 148 of the Constitution, which deals with the appointment of the top government auditor, says: “There shall be a Comptroller and Auditor General of India who shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal and shall only be removed from office in like manner and on like grounds as a Judge of the Supreme Court…”.
Under the current system, the Cabinet Secretariat, headed by the Union cabinet secretary, sends a list of shortlisted names to the prime minister for his consideration for appointing the top government auditor, the plea said.
The prime minister considers the shortlisted names and recommends one of them to the President of India for approval, and after the presidential nod, the person selected is appointed as the CAG, the PIL said.
The plea, which also referred to the constituent assembly debates, sought a direction to ensure that “the appointment of CAG is made as per the correct interpretation of Article 148 of the Constitution of India and without any interference of the Executive”.
It also sought a direction for constitution of a committee to prepare a report and recommend the process for neutral and independent appointment of CAG.
“The process adopted is such that the CAG is directly appointed by the Executives, without any transparent or fair procedure, and the President has no option but to agree on the one name proposed by the Prime Minister,” the plea said.
“The Comptroller and Auditor General is the most important officer under the Constitution, his duty being to be the guardian over the expenses of the government to see that not a farthing is spent without the authority of the Parliament and includes an oversight on receipts and revenues of the government. The office of Comptroller and Auditor General of India is expected to be independent of any interference from the executive and the legislature,” senior advocate Vikas Singh argued.
He said the constituent assembly debates made it amply clear that the founding fathers intended to keep the post of CAG free from any interference from the executive and the legislature.
“Presently, there exists a vacuum in law with regards to the appointment of CAG. Article 148 of the Constitution only provides that, there shall be a Comptroller and Auditor-General of India who shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal.
“That the Constitution does not provide for any procedure for the appointment of CAG. This creates a vacuum in law, giving way to the adoption of a procedure that is arbitrary and against the constitutional mandate,” the plea said.
The PIL sought directions as issued by the top court in relation to the appointment of Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners.
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