Attempt to gag the CAG
The Supreme Court has done right to have dismissed a frivolous public interest litigation which challenged the power of the Comptroller and Auditor General [CAG] of India. The PIL had suggested that the conduct of performance audits such as those of coal block allocations and other issues of government to arrive at presumptive losses was beyond the power of the CAG. This PIL was a mischievous and deliberate attempt at misreading the powers of the CAG, possibly at the behest of vested interests. The CAG is no small acounting office but a high constitutional authority with extensive powers to review the financial decisions of the government. The institution is inbuilt in the constitution as one of the systems of checks and balances meant to prevent the misuse of powers by the government, especially its financial authority. As the Supreme Court has rightly observed, the national auditor is not just a munim, or accountant, and scrutinising the effective use of resources is its primary duty. The apex court is correct in noting that the CAG’s function was to go into the economy, effectiveness and efficiency of the use of resources by the government. It is of late that the institution of the CAG has been under attack after it uncovered massive irregularities such as in the allocation of coal blocks and several other scams that have cost the nation losses of an enormous magnitude and on an unprecedented scale. In uncovering these financial irregularities the CAG has done a signal service to the nation and only performed its rightful constitutional mandate. It can hardly be a coincidence that this frivolous litigation follows the almost mindless criticisms of the CAG by politicians of the ruling Congress party, such as Manish Tiwari and Sriprakash Jaiswal, who could not have spoken but at the behest of their party high command. These politicians have attempted to undermine the role of the CAG by spreading caluminies and falsehoods about the institution that are almost of goebbelsian proportion such as the suggestion that its only role was to calculate the profits and losses of the government. That the primary ruling party has stooped to such underhand methods to attack a constitutional authority is highly disturbing. Besides being a commentary on the quality of personnel in public life, it has a more sinster dimension. These attacks are not merely on the CAG but on Indian democracy itself, which this institution, which reports to Parliament, represents. It is most dangerous when a political party in power begins to attack democratic institutions at a time it stands accused of extensive corruption.