Apex court seeks vigilance chief’s posting details

Monday, November 8, 2010

NEW DELHI - The Supreme Court Monday told the government to place before it the file recording consultations between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj over the appointment of P.J. Thomas as the central vigilance commissioner (CVC).

“Please (also) bring the record showing that he is an outstanding civil servant” fulfilling the eligibility criterion for being appointed as the CVC, said the apex court bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar.

The apex court said this in the course of the hearing of a public interest litigation (PIL) by Centre for Public Interest Litigation challenging Thomas’ appointment.

The court gave the central government two weeks’ time to produce the records directed.

Appearing for the petitioner, senior counsel Prashant Bhushan said Thomas should not have been appointed as the head of the anti-corruption agency.

The senior counsel said Thomas had shown the “tendency of succumbing under the (pressure of) telecom minister in making appointment, giving extension” to the people who were under the scanner for alleged corruption cases.

“What will he do as the head of the anti-corruption agency,” Bhushan wondered.

The court was told that Thomas faced a probe on charges of corruption in the Kerala palm oil import scam and a chargesheet was still pending against him.

In the course of the hearing, the apex court observed that it was not saying anything on the merit of the pending chargesheet but wondered if in view of the chargesheet in the palm oil import case, such a person could be described as an “outstanding civil servant”.

Attorney General G. Vahanvati said Thomas had been cleared in the palm oil import case and there was nothing against him.

The attorney general told the court that all that was being attributed to Thomas was a decision by the Kerala government and duly approved by the state cabinet.

Vahanvati contested all the points made by Bhushan.

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