Govt tells SC it didnt know Thomas was chargesheeted

Written by fe Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Jan 28 2011, 08:03am hrs
PJ Thomass continuance as Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) looked even more tenuous on Thursday with the government telling the Supreme Court that the Cabinet Committee on Appointments (CCA) which cleared his name for the constitutional post was not aware that he was charge-sheeted in a corruption case.

Creating more embarrassment for the government, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj was quick to allege that the governments stance, articulated by the attorney general Goolam E Vahanvati, was untrue.

Swaraj said the charge sheet against Thomas in the Kerala palmolein import scam was one of the reasons why she opposed his appointment as a member of the CCA and threatened that she would file an affidavit in the SC and apprise the court of all the facts.

She said on social networking site Twitter: In fact, it (the governments) is a mis-statement. I personally brought this fact to the notice of the Prime Minister and home minister at the (CCA) meeting itself even though they persisted with this appointment. Headed by the PM, the three-member CCA included the home minister and Swaraj.

The apex court stated that it wanted to know from the government whether or not relevant material had been brought before the selection committee. The Bench comprising justices KS Radhakrishnan and Swatenter Kumar also wanted to know who else was on the selection zone.

The Court will now hear how this particular contention of the government would affect the appointment of the CVC.

This is the basis on which we will go on and not the merits of the case, the Bench said. The apex court said it wanted to know if correct procedure was followed in the appointment of the CVC.

In response to the courts queries, Vahanvati said: It (the charge sheet and the sanction granted by Kerala government for his prosecution ) was not before the committee. The material pertaining to the sanction for prosecution under section 120 B of the Indian Penal Code was not before the committee. The bio-data did not reflect this aspect before the committee.

The governments stand was clarified on a public interest litigation (PIL) on this matter filed, among others, by former chief election commissioner JM Lyngdoh, lawyer Prashant Bhushan and the Centre for Public Interest Litigation.

However, the government, in its affidavit to the apex court, defended Thomas appointment by saying that impeccable integrity was not an eligibility criterion for the CVCs appointment. Thomas himself though has always maintained that hes a victim of politics.

The bench told counsel Prashant Bhushan that while the attorney general has answered its questions, he (Bhushan) will have to now give his arguments on the selection issue. Thomas has been charge-sheeted in the palmolein import scam and the case has been filed on whether a charge-sheeted person can be made CVC or not. Bhushan had said the files pertaining to the charge sheet against Thomas in a corruption case were not placed before the three-member panel which also included home minister P Chidambaram and the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj. The CPIL and others have challenged Thomas appointment as CVC, contending that he was considered for the crucial post despite objection from the Leader of the Opposition.