Will AgustaWestland allegation hit CAG Shashi Kant Sharma?

New Delhi, May 6 (IANS) Trinamool Congress member Saugata Roy on Friday made a veiled reference to Comptroller and Auditor General Shashi Kant Sharma, who had earlier worked in the defence ministry, vis-a-vis AgustaWestland chopper scam.

“I want to ask whether you have questioned the DG, procurement,” Roy asked Defence Minister Manohor Parrikar during the discussion in the Lok Sabha on the high-profile controversy, but did not take any name.

The MP from West Bengal’s Dum Dum MP specifically asked Parrikar to list what action he has “taken in the one-and-a-half years against corruption?” and alleged that while the NDA government has been “shouting from the housetops against corruption”, it did not have anything “specific” to divulge.

“You say that Rs.124 crore bribe has been paid,” Roy pointedly told Parrikar, and asked him: “What has the CBI under your government done in two years? If bribe has been paid, you should have recovered it”.

Sharma held the post of director general (acquisition) — which the Trinamool MP mistakenly referred to as “procurement” – in the defence ministry in 2007-10.

Allegedly Sharma’s name or designation as “DG (Acq.)” – short form of acquisition – figures in the list of people named by middleman Christian Michel as documented in the Italian court order.

Bharatiya Janata Party member Nishikant Dubey also made a veiled reference to the CAG and few other people who continue to hold constitutional positions.

With one reference, he said the then Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj had opposed appointment of a former police official in the National Human Rights Commission.

Of the 1976 batch of Indian Administrative Service, Sharma joined the defence ministry in 2003 as a joint secretary. BJP sources had alleged in 2013-14 that Sharma became DG acquisition in 2007 and has been “literally controlling” the basic process of controversial AgustaWestland chopper purchase.

He continued in the key position till 2010 and became defence secretary later in 2011.

In May 2013, the BJP had opposed appointment of Sharma as CAG, and even last year, a section of BJP leaders made an issue over the powers of CAG.

In fact, on the sidelines of a conference of Public Accounts Committee chairpersons in parliament premises, BJP MP Dubey, also a member of the powerful panel, had sought CAG to be made accountable to the parliament.

“We have the incumbent CAG Shashi Kant Sharma, a former defence secretary, who is now auditing his own actions as the defence secretary when a few deals materialised,” Dubey had said.

It is understood now that the government is now making a case for the Central Bureau of Investigation to “question Sharma”.

“We are not being vindictive. In the national interest and also in interest of justice the concerned investigating agency needs to or has the duty to question the incumbent CAG,” a BJP MP told IANS.

The argument for the same has only gained currency once the Italian court judgment has included the “bribe list” as given by fugitive Michel as annexures.

However, Roy argued in the Lok Sabha on Friday that the words and testimonies of a fugitive should be “taken with a pinch of salt”.

(Nirendra Dev can be contacted at nirendra.n@ians.in)



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