SC dismisses plea for review of CAG's loss figures

Last Updated: Fri, Nov 02, 2012 15:20 hrs

New Delhi, Nov 2 (IANS) The Supreme Court Friday dismissed a petition seeking direction to the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to revisit its valuation of loss of Rs.1.86 lakh crore to the exchequer in the controversial allocation of coal blocks.

The apex court bench of Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice Anil R. Dave while dismissing the petition by overseas Indian citizen Bennet Castelino said: "We have a well-settled structure for examining it (CAG report). He will have to justify how he came to these figures."

Castellino lives in New Zealand.

"He will be quizzed by the PAC (Public Accounts Committee of parliament) and he will have to justify" how he arrived at these figures, Justice Lodha said while refusing to accept the petitioner's plea that CAG be asked to review the computation of Rs.1.86 lakh crore gain to private companies.

Justice Lodha said PAC represented "collective wisdom".

Castelino wondered how CAG could come to these staggering figures without going into accounts of the 57 coal companies.

As the court said CAG would have to satisfy the PAC about its calculation in loss to public exchequer on account of the allocation of coal blocks, Castelino said that in PAC, members would take political positions.

While agreeing that the methodology that the CAG would follow in computing accounts was not laid down, the court said yet "it (auditing of accounts) is done by competent auditors and accountants".

"We have become a laughing stock in the world," Castellino told the court in response to a query if he had come all the way from New Zealand to file this Public Interest Litigation (PIL).

"It is a matter of shame," Castelino said the way the official auditor had calculated the loss to public exchequer.

Castellino said CAG should follow the due process and rule of law while undertaking auditing of accounts of the government.

When he sought the court's direction so that he could be permitted to appear before the PAC, the court said: "I don't think that this can be done by the court."

At the outset, the court told the PIL practitioner that a similar petition by one Arvind Gupta was dismissed Oct 1.

Castelino said unlike Gupta, he was questioning the authority of CAG to audit the accounts.

"I'm only questioning the methodology adopted to come to the conclusion of loss of Rs.1.86 lakh crores without looking into accounts of companies who got the blocks."

While dismissing the PIL, the court said the challenge to the CAG by Castelino on the grounds did not fall in the domain of judicial review.

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