SC questions tainted CVC's appointment

SC questions tainted CVC's appointment

How will a person accused in a criminal case function as CVC?

SC questions tainted CVC's appointment

In a reflection of heightenend sensitivity to bureaucratic indiscretions, the Supreme Court, which last week sought an explanation from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his failure to take action against former Telecom Minister A Raja, observed that as  Thomas would feel “embarrassed” because of the pending criminal case since the CBI would deal with him regularly.

The Congress refused to comment on the Supreme Court’s observations, saying it was for the law ministry and other government departments dealing with the issue to respond.

Thomas figures in a chargesheet filed in a vigilance court in Kerala in the palmolein import case which is due to come up for hearing soon.

Till recently, Thomas was secretary to the Union Telecom Ministry which is in the midst of a raging storm kicked up after Raja was found by the Comptroller and Auditor General for having manipulated rules to favour some telecom firms. Thomas is also allegedly involved in the cover-up of the 2G spectrum scam.

He was appointed CVC on September 7 this year by a three-member panel comprising the prime minister, Home Minister P Chidambaram and Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj. The BJP leader is said to have opposed the appointment.

Observation

A Bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia said: “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’s observation came after Attorney General G E Vahanvati placed records of documents pertaining to Thomas’  appointment in a sealed cover.

The stinging observations of the court came a day before it is due to hear the 2G spectrum case arising out of Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy’s petition.

The Bench, also comprising justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swtanter Kumar, said: “We will sit together and go through the file.”

The Bench asked Vahanvati whether the eligibility criteria of having impeccable integrity was met by Thomas before he was appointed CVC. It told Vahanvati that the issue as to how Thomas will function as CVC when his name is there in a chargesheet will crop up at every stage. Vahanvati sought to clarify that there was no involvement of Thomas in the palmolein import case and the sanction to prosecute him had not been processed.

But the Bench “proceeded on the assumption” that at every stage there will be allegations that the CVC should not process a file as he was accused in a criminal case.
“How will you function as CVC?” the judges asked, adding that “under service jurisprudence, a a person cannot even be considered for promotions when a chargesheet is pending against him”.

The court’s emphasis was on whether the criterion of impeccable integrity was followed when the UPA government appointed him CVC. At this, Vahanvati responded by claiming that former Chief Election Commissioner J M Lyngdoh, who had filed the petition along with others, had prepared Thomas’ ACR in which he stated that his integrity was beyond doubt. “And now his credentials are being challenged by the former Chief Election Commissioner,” Vahanvati said.

The two PILs—one filed by an NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation, and the other by Lyngdoh — had contended that Thomas was considered for the crucial post despite objection from the Leader of the Opposition who was part of a high-power committee for the appointment of CVC. The Bench posted the matter for further hearing after two weeks.

Attorney General reacts sharply

The Supreme Court’s posers on CVC PJ Thomas’ appointment prompted a sharp response from Attorney General G E Vahanvati who said if the kind of allegations levelled against him were considered, then all judicial appointments would be open to scrutiny, reports DHNS.  Later, the Attorney General clarified that there was no collision between the government and the judiciary. “There is no collision between the government and the judiciary. The government does not want it. The judiciary does not want it,” he said. 

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