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SC Seeks Thomas' Explanation On His Continuance As CVC

New Delhi, Dec 6: After its stinging remarks, the Supreme Court today asked controversial bureaucrat P J Thomas to explain his continuance as Central Vigilance Commissioner despite facing a corruption case in a Kerala court.The
PTI December 06, 2010 16:39 IST
PTI
New Delhi, Dec 6: After its stinging remarks, the Supreme Court today asked controversial bureaucrat P J Thomas to explain his continuance as Central Vigilance Commissioner despite facing a corruption case in a Kerala court.

The apex court, which examined the file relating to Thomas' appointment as CVC, sought the explanation, issuing him notices on various petitions which contended that he did not fulfill the criteria for holding such an important and sensitive post.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia issued the notice also to the government on various petitions challenging the appointment of Thomas as CVC despite having been chargesheeted in Palmolein oil import case in Kerala.

Thomas, who was appointed as CVC on September 7 this year, was issued notices on petitions filed by NGO, Centre for Public Interst Litigation(CPIL) and some other eminent persons including former Chief Election Commissioner J M Lyngdoh against his appointment.

"We have gone through the file. We will keep the matter for final hearing," the bench also comprising justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar said while posting the matter for hearing on January 27.

"Let them file their affidavit," the bench said, while also asking them to complete the process of filing replies and counter replies and other written submissions by the next date of hearing.

Attorney General G E Vahanvati accepted the notice on behalf of the government but declined to accept it on behalf of Thomas.

The bench also said that it wants to keep the matter for final hearing immediately. The AG sought six weeks to file response to the notice.

Bhushan said that it was a serious matter about a crucial post and wanted the matter to be taken up earlier. He submitted that he will serve the notice to Thomas tomorrow itself.

The bench directed the apex court registry that the file relating to the appointment of CVC, which it had called for earlier, be returned to the government later during the day.

The petitions have contended that Thomas was considered for the crucial post despite objection from the Leader of the Opposition who was part of a high-power 3-member panel for the appointment.

The petitioners argued that Thomas cannot not be considered as a person of "impeccable integrity" as he was chargesheeted in the Palmolein import scam when he was Kerala's Secretary in the state Ministry of Food and Civil Supplies and had secured bail from the local court.

The PILs said he also could not be appointed as CVC on account of "conflict of interest" as till recently he was serving as the Secretary in Telecom Ministry and there was allegation that he was involved in the "cover-up" of the 2G spectrum allocation scam, which, according to the petitioners, has caused a loss of Rs 70,000 crore to the exchequer.

The petitioners have sought the court's direction to declare Thomas' appointment as illegal contending that there was violation of Section 4 of the Central Vigilance Commission Act as the Prime Minister and the Home Minister insisted on his name despite objection by the Leader of the Opposition, which shows the government had decided in advance to appoint him.

The petitions said, "When the country's highest court and Parliament held that the CVC would be selected by a three-member committee including the Leader of the Opposition, it was patently obvious that the said committee would take the decision unanimously or through consensus. It was nowhere said that it would decide by majority.

"The latter interpretation would make the presence of the Leader of the Opposition meaningless as the Prime Minister and the Home Minister would always be ad-idem and the person selected would be a government nominee. Therefore, the manner in which Thomas was selected makes his appointment illegal, bad in law and hence void ab-initio," it said.

During the last hearing, the apex court had raised serious questions over Thomas' appointment and continuance as CVC despite a corruption case pending against him.

The bench had observed that Thomas as the CVC will himself feel embarrassed due to the criminal case pending against him as in every case the CBI will be dealing with him.

"Without looking into the file, we are concerned that if a person is an accused in a criminal case how will he function as CVC," the bench had observed after the AG submitted to it the file related to Thomas' appointment in a sealed cover.

"We will sit together and go through the file," the bench had said. It had quizzed the government if Thomas fulfill the eligibility criteria of having an impeccable integrity for the appointment.

The bench had told Vahanvati that the issue, as to how Thomas would function as CVC when his name is there in a chargesheet, will crop up at every stage.

"Let us proceed on the assumption that at every stage there will be allegations that you should not process a file as CVC as you are accused in a criminal case. Then, how will you function as CVC?," the bench had asked, adding "In every case the CBI has to report to him."

"At this stage, as a chargesheet is pending against him since 2002, he is not even considered to be promoted. We are only suggesting whether he will be able to function as CVC. He himself will be an embarrassment," the bench had remarked.

Prashant Bhushan, counsel for CPIL, told reporters outside the apex court that,"having tried to cover up the scandal as Telecom Secretary, Thomas cannot be expected to impartially supervise the CBI investigation into the 2G scam. PTI