Constitutional Position of CAG: Need for a multi-member body

By Vivek Pattanayak*

Evolution of office of audit can be traced back to the time of enactment of Government of India Act 1858 when after the British government decided to take over the governance of India from the East India company. The post was designated as the Auditor General and it was called the Comptroller and Auditor General only in 1884 to be in line with the system then prevailing in Britain. The landmark Montford constitutional reforms as contained under the Government of India Act of 1919 gave the position of CAG an independent status distinctly separate from the Governor General. Since then the same status was enjoyed by it, first under Government of India Act, 1935 and then under the Constitution of India.

Under the scheme of the constitution of India, the doctrine of separation of power and concept of check and balance became the fundamental principle. No wonder, functions of the executive (President), legislature (Parliament) and judiciary (Supreme Court) and other constitutional bodies like Attorney General, Comptroller and Auditor General, Public Service Commission (UPSC) and Election Commission (EC) were clearly adumbrated. The main objective behind this time-honored principle is to deconcentrate authority of the state so that there is an inbuilt mechanism against abuse of power and misuse of authority.

While all high constitutional institutions are established with multiple membership, CAG and Attorney General are exceptions. All appointments to the constitutional bodies are done by the President. While PM and Ministers are appointed by President, appointment of Ministers are on the advice of PM. While the appointment of judges to the Supreme Court are done by the President on the advice of Prime Minister that is done only in consultation with Chief Justice of India. However, by virtue of judicial decisions this is based on the recommendations of the collegium. The appointment of Attorney General, members of EC and PSC and CAG are done solely on the advice of PM. While Ministers and AG function under the pleasure of the President, all others are not subject to that pleasure of the President. Although AG and Ministers function under the pleasure of the President, that is subject to the advice of PM. Removal of persons holding other constitutional positions are subject to elaborate procedure prescribed under the constitution. From this, it would be clear that the framers of constitution wanted these functionaries to remain independent and neutral not subject to vagaries of political environment.

Originally, Election Commission was solely a single member body. In order to make the institution more democratic, it was made multiple member body. Public Service Commission has been a multiple member institution from the beginning. The judiciary also functions with multiple membership. A multiple member body is likely to be less arbitrary. Elements of checks and balances get ingrained into the institution. Time has perhaps come to consider making the constitutional audit body a multiple member institution. In the past this idea had been mooted by LK Advani, former Deputy PM and supported by Deva Gowda former Prime Minister.

Selection of  persons for appointment to PSC, EC and CAG, the Prime Minister on whose advice the President acts, the process should be more transparent and done by way of consultative approach as is done in case of appointment to Human Rights Commission, Electricity Regulatory Commission, Chief Vigilance Commission and even Central Bureau of Investigation.

Institution of CAG has an extremely important responsibility of ensuring that finance of the State which is most vital to governance of the country is effectively and efficiently managed with integrity more particularly during the present stressful situation caused by unprecedented crisis. It is pertinent to quote B Das from Odisha, an eminent legislator of the central legislature of the yesteryears, known as the doyen of the House, who had stated during the debate of the Constituent Assembly that three institutions who could maintain the purity of the administration are the Supreme Court, CAG and Public Service Commission.

In view this, the government should initiate action for a constitutional amendment to make the CAG a multi member body and process of selecting members to this body be transparent and consultative.

 

*The author is a former bureaucrat and held important positions in aviation and power regulatory body. He can be  reached through e-mail at [email protected]

 

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of  Sambad English.

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