Integrity rule also for judicial posts, government tells court (Second Lead)

Monday, November 22, 2010

NEW DELHI - The government Monday told the Supreme Court that if its criterion of central vigilance commissioner (CVC) being an outstanding civil servant of impeccable honesty and integrity was to be followed in all postings then every judicial appointment would come under scrutiny.

“Impeccable honesty and integrity is a criterion for all the appointments under the constitution,” Attorney General Goolam Vahanvati told the apex court bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar.

The government’s statement came when the court asked if CVC P.J. Thomas could function effectively in view of various charges levelled against him.

The court was also given a set of files in a sealed packet concerning the procedure followed by the government in the appointment of Thomas, including the deliberations between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and leader of opposition Sushma Swaraj.

The court was hearing a petition by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) challenging the appointment of Thomas as the CVC as a charge sheet had been filed against him in the palmolein cooking oil import case when he was posted as a secretary in Kerala.

Thomas, as the food secretary in the Congress government in the state in 1992, was involved in importing oil from Malaysia. It was alleged that the oil was imported at a price that was higher than the prevailing market rate and this caused the exchequer a loss of Rs.2.8 crore.

The charge sheet in the alleged corruption case was filed in 2000 but charges have still not been framed against Thomas.

The apex court Monday asked Vahanvati “if the case (against Thomas) was still pending or over”.

The attorney general said that the case was pending. The charge sheet had been filed but charges were yet to be framed.

Senior counsel Prashant Bhushan appearing for the petitioner said that there was a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) indicting Thomas.

The court said: “We are only concerned whether this post will become non-functional”.

“At every stage there will be an allegation that he can’t process files as you are an accused in a criminal case. Then what will happen. How will he function,” the court asked.

The court said that it would not say anything on the merit of the case pending against Thomas. “At this stage we are concerned if he will be able to function effectively as CVC,” the court observed.

“He is a head of the CVC. Charge sheet is pending against him in palm oil import case. What will the state investigate when the top brass is sitting as the CVC,” the court asked.

The court went on to observe that in “service jurisprudence you dont promote a person against whom charge sheet is pending.

Adjourning the matter, the court asked the attorney general to take instruction from the government on the query raised by it.

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