Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

CAG and constitution

It is strange that former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) V. K. Shunglu suggested that CAG be made a multi-member body. Narayanasamy, MoS in PMO said the government is actively considering it and later retracted.

V. K. Shunglu had submitted six reports on Commonwealth Games. The government implemented first report which was against B. S. Lalli. Other reports which were against Sheila Dikshit and others were not implemented.

About CAG, V. K. Shunglu had suggested that a three-member body would obtain greater transparency in operation. Was there not enough transparency when Shunglu was CAG?

Former CEC S. Y. Quraishi said CAG will become more powerful if it has more than one member. The fact is additional members are appointed to make Election Commission fall in line with government. One CEC had problem with Navin Kohli who was then Election Commissioner. The CEC did not want Navin Kohli to succeed him as CED but UPA government appointed him as CEC.

The constitution provides for CAG as one person and Election Commission as a body headed by CEC. Articles 148-151 deal with CAG, duties and powers, accounts, and audit reports. Article 148 is clear that CAG is one person. There is no provision for multi-member CAG.

Article 324 deals with Election Commission. It states, among other things, “The Election Commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners, if any, as the President may from time to time fix…” CEC is enough. ECs are optional. For a long time India had only CEC. In 1989 Rajiv Gandhi government appointed two ECs. Rajiv Gandhi was unhappy with R. V. S. Peri Sastry. When V. P. Singh government came to power they removed the two ECs. When T. N. Seshan became CEC he took decisions that favoured Congress. Janata Dal wanted his removal. P. V. Narasimha Rao promised that but did not keep his promise. Later T. N. Seshan became a problem for Congress. Then Congress government appointed two ECs. As the governments changed they continued with Election Commission as a three-member body. They promoted ECs as CECs and brought as ECs people who thought were suitable for them. Sometimes the calculations went wrong.

UPA is unhappy with Vinod Rai as CAG. Previous CAGs were quiet. Vinod Rai said the brazenness with which the decisions are taken is appalling. Amending the constitution to curb CAG’s powers is not easy for UPA. CAG is a constitutional functionary. There is no bar on him holding press conferences, giving interviews, blogging, or tweeting.

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