NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday asked for a copy of the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report pointing out alleged irregularities in the purchase of intelligence equipment by National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), which was set up in 2004 to provide critical data relating to threats to the nation.
Solicitor general R F Nariman assured a bench of Justices H L Dattu and C K Prasad that the government had already initiated action against erring officials on the basis of the CAG report but petitioner V K Mittal’s counsel Jayant Bhushan wondered why the Centre was shy of bringing the alleged irregularities into the open by placing the report in Parliament.
The bench asked Nariman to produce the CAG report on NTRO scam in a sealed cover by March 19. This is the second time within a year that the apex court has asked for a CAG report, the first being on the irregularities in the allotment of 2G spectrum and licences during A Raja’s tenure as telecom minister.
Nariman was belligerent in trashing Mittal’s PIL, not only accusing the latter of attempting to serve a personal interest but also alleging that his correspondence with the authorities revealing top secret projects with their location could help countries inimical to India.
Bhushan countered Nariman by alleging that the government was deliberately keeping the matter under wraps in the name of security to shield the culprits. But the bench said, “It is not a case where the government has put the issue in cold storage but promised that it was being looked into. We will not pass an order but request the SG to produce the CAG report in a sealed cover on March 19.”
Mittal had alleged that a major portion of the Rs 450 crore NTRO scam pertained to purchase of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from an Israeli firm allegedly at a very high price without the mandatory approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).
NTRO, which functions under the Prime Minister’s Office, has been entrusted with the task of missile monitoring, satellite and airborne imagery, cyber patrolling and security, cyber offensive operations and communication support systems including cryptology.
It was on the complaint of Mittal, a former joint director in the government of India who had also served in NTRO, that the PMO had ordered a probe into the scam and later, CAG was asked to look into the organisation’s accounts. Nariman alleged that Mittal wanted to head the NTRO and filed the PIL when he did not succeed.
During the last hearing, Bhushan had alleged that Delhi High Court had dismissed Mittal’s writ petition on April 6, 2011 after the Centre filed a probe status report in sealed cover assuring prompt action against the guilty officials. However, no action was taken till date, he claimed.
Mittal’s petition stated that the independent body answerable only to the national security adviser was allotted approximately Rs 8,000 crore since 2005, but there was no accounting of the spending.