Integrity for CVC’s post not mandatory: Govt to SC

via Courtesy: Mail Today , Gyanant Singh published on November 23, 2010

In a bizarre argument, the government on Monday defended the selection of charge-sheeted P. J. Thomas as the head of the country’s top anti-corruption body before the Supreme Court by stating that “impeccable integrity” was not an eligibility criterion for appointment of the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC).

Attorney General G. E. Vahanvati made the statement after a bench comprising Chief Justice S. H. Kapadia, Justice K. S. Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar repeatedly questioned the selection of Thomas for the post despite the fact that he had been charge-sheeted in a corruption case which was pending.

“At every stage, an accused might say: ‘Sir, you can’t proceed. You are yourself an accused.’ Then what will happen? How will you function?” Justice Kapadia asked the attorney general, who was defending the appointment.

In a bid to avoid uncomfortable questions, Vahanvati said the process set out under the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003, was followed and “impeccable integrity” was not an eligibility criterion for the selection of the CVC.

But this did not stop the court from posing some difficult questions. Finding it difficult to defend the appointment, the attorney general at one point lost his cool. “If integrity is the criterion, every judicial appointment will be subject to scrutiny. Every judicial appointment will be challenged,” Vahanvati said.

The court, however, overlooked the apparent suggestion that appointment of judges also could be questioned. “We are not even on integrity but will he be able to function? In every matter, he will himself face embarrassment,” Justice Kapadia said.

Though Vahanvati was on the offensive, he could not save PM Manmohan Singh from one more embarrassment. Singh, who had to explain his silence on the 2G scam earlier, was in the centre of a controversy over the appointment of Thomas, too.

The CVC, who has been chargesheeted in Kerala’s palmolein import scam case, was allegedly handpicked for the post by the PM and home minister P. Chidambaram on September 4, overruling objections by the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj. The BJP leader was the third member on the committee for selection of the CVC.

At the last hearing, the bench had asked the Centre to produce all records pertaining to the appointment after it was alleged that the government had flouted the norms laid down by the Supreme Court in 1998 while appointing Thomas.

The Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) and former Chief Election Commissioner J. M. Lyngdoh had, in two writ petitions, pointed out that the apex court in the Vineet Narain case had stated that only a person of “impeccable integrity” could be appointed CVC.

Though the attorney general admitted at the outset on Monday that Thomas had been charge-sheeted in 2000, he tried to steer clear of the 1998 judgment by stating that the appointment had been made as per the provisions of the 2003 Act which came subsequently. He said though a charge-sheet had been filed, sanction for prosecution had not been granted. “But there will be objections at various stages,” Justice Kapadia said.

Though the court was not talking of any specific case, Vahanvati stated that the palmolein case will not come before him. “Are you talking of the 2G scam?” he asked. The suo motu reference to the 2G scam came as Thomas was till recently the telecom secretary and the petitioners alleged he had a role in covering up the scam.

“Irrespective of the matter before him, the question is how will he function,” the court said. “Very simple… it is only a chargesheet,” Vahanvati said, underestimating the gravity of the question put by the bench. “The question is very simple.

When he works, he will recommend complaints and order investigations… in every matter there would be objections,” the bench said. Unable to give any plausible answer, Vahanvati said: “(This) can happen to anybody.”

Making another attempt to divert the attention of the bench, Vahanvati said the court should peruse the file pertaining to the appointment of Thomas. But the court was not convinced; it stated that even without looking into the file, the issue which was troubling it was that he was an accused.

Talking of the sensitivity of the post, Justice Radhakrishnan pointed out that CBI reported to the CVC in every case. He stated that it was unlikely that the case against him in Kerala would move with him being the CVC.

Stressing that the matter was serious, the bench, which was not satisfied with the casual replies provided by the attorney general, asked him to come prepared with answers during the next hearing after two weeks.

Read full report at
http://indiatoday.intoday.in/site/Story/120828/LATEST%20HEADLINES/integrity-for-cvcs-post-not-mandatory-govt-to-sc.html

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