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SC dismisses plea for review of CAG's coal-scam loss figures

Friday, 2 November 2012 - 9:36pm IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: IANS

The court said there was a well-settled structure in the country for examining CAG reports and the statutory auditor would have to justify its conclusions to the public accounts committee of Parliament.

The Supreme Court today dismissed a petition seeking direction to the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) to revisit its valuation of a loss of Rs1.86 lakh crore to the exchequer in the controversial allocation of coal blocks.

A division bench of Justice RM Lodha and Justice Anil R Dave, while dismissing the petition by overseas Indian citizen Bennet Castellino, said: "We have a well-settled structure for examining it [the 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 the CAG be asked to review the computation of a gain of Rs1.86 lakh crore to private companies.

Justice Lodha said the PAC represents "collective wisdom".

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

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

While agreeing that the methodology that the CAG would follow in computing accounts was not laid down, the court said "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 initiate this public interest litigation (PIL).

"It is a matter of shame," Castellino said of the way the statutory auditor had calculated the loss to the public exchequer. He said the CAG should follow the due process and rule of law while undertaking an audit 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: "We don't think that this can be done by the court."

At the outset, the court told the petitioner that a similar petition by a man named Arvind Gupta had been dismissed on October 1.

Castellino said that unlike Gupta, he was not questioning the authority of the CAG to audit accounts. "I'm only questioning the methodology adopted to come to the conclusion of a loss of Rs1.86 lakh crore without looking into the accounts of companies who got the blocks."

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

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