From India News Network (INN)
"CPI(M) MPs demand resignation of George Fernandes for Maligning the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG)"
New Delhi, February 1: In a Press Conference held at Delhi this afternoon Senior CPI(M) Members of Parliament Com. Somnath Chatterjee MP and CPI(M) leader of the Lok Sabha along with Com. Nilotpal Basu MP released a letter addressed to the Prime Minister against the improper steps taken by the Defence Minister George Fernandes to malign the institution of the Comptroller and the Auditor General(CAG) by circulating the booklet titled "Aluminium Caskets" authored by Shri R V Pandit to MPs. Both M Ps protested against the impropriety shown by the Defence Minister by allowing access of confidential material to a private man and to join hands with him to campaign against a Constitutional Authority and have demanded the immediate removal of George Fernandes from the Cabinet.
Shri George Fernandes has openly acknowledged that he and his office has helped Mr. Pandit in the distributing and writing the booklet which exposes the institutions created under the constitution and their functioning which is nothing short of a frontal attack on the CAG. In doing so Mr. Fernandes has flouted the established procedures of dealing with the CAG reports. Both MPs have said that this act of Shri Fernandes constitutes a major affront on the functioning of the Parliament itself and therefore the attention of the Prime Minister is drawn to this gross impropriety so that immediate action can be initiated against him which will be commensurate with the gravity of the misdemeanor and only such a action will be able to reassure the Nation that such attempts against established conventions will not be permitted. Both M Ps demanded the removal of the Defence Minister on the issue.
Given below is the copy of the letter written to the Prime Minister Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee and released at the Press Conference:
"Dear Prime Minister,
The attempts of your government through the office of the Defence Minister to malign the institution of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) have caused nothing but outrage to all patriotic people. At the same time, we also greatly concerned to witness the manner in which official documents have been passed on to a private person to join issues with the Press and the CAG in defence of the positions of the Government and in particular, the Defence Minister himself. All these activities came to our attention yesterday when we received a letter dated 15/23 January, 2002 (perhaps to each of the Members of Parliament of both Houses) by Shri George Fernandes, Minister of Defence forwarding a Booklet titled "Aluminium Caskets", authored by Shri R.V. Pandit.
In his letter, Shri Fernandes has pointed out "My office provided Shri Pandit with the available documents and also arranged for him to see one of the 150 Aluminium Caskets imported by us". Shri Fernandes has also justified this by pointing out – "I felt that it would be in the interest of the defence establishment to let him have a look at the correspondence connected with the purchase of the re-useable caskets we have bought". Finally, Shri Fernandes observes approvingly of Shri Pandit’s booklet by stating that "Shri Pandit may appear to be harsh with the CAG and the Press: however, as one reads the booklet, it becomes obvious that he is deeply concerned about the Press (with which he is involved for more than 50 years and how it conducts itself presently) and about institutions created under the Constitution and how they function currently".
A perusal of the booklet by Shri Pandit (which is priced at Rs.50 and one doesn’t know who paid for the free copies sent to the MPs) reveals a single point agenda – to malign the CAG and wide sections of the press who made critical observations on the defence establishment and the Defence Minister over the purchase of Aluminium Caskets on the basis of the references of the CAG in its Report – Union Government (Defence Services) No.7A of 2001, titled "Review of Procurement for Op. Vijay (Army)". It is not our contention here to join issues with Shri Pandit on the content of his booklet, which can be any way refuted point by point. But we would like to draw your attention primarily to the flouting of the established procedures of dealing with CAG reports by Parliament. It is an exclusive prerogative of the Public Accounts Committee to deal with the CAG report. But Shri George Fernandes has in open violation of all norms and conventions sponsored Shri Pandit to launch a frontal attack on the CAG, and he has approvingly forwarded the same with a view to join in the campaign against a high constitutional authority.
We feel that this act of Shri Fernandes constitutes a major affront on the functioning of the Parliament itself and therefore we draw your attention to this gross impropriety with the request that you will initiate immediate action commensurate with the gravity of the misdemeanor and reassure the nation that such violation against the established conventions will not be permitted. We shall await your early response and your decision against those who are clearly guilty, as Shri Fernandes’ continuance in the Cabinet has become further untenable.
We are happy appending a copy of the letter written by Shri Fernandes forwarding Shri Pandit’s booklet for your perusal. The booklet, itself can be downloaded from www.CAGMUSTGO.COM and /or www.HOWUNTRUTHPREVAILS.COM.
Somnath Chatterjee Nilotpal Basu
Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee,
Hon’ble Prime Minister,
Government of India