The Centre on Monday strongly defended in the Supreme Court the appointment of P.J. Thomas as the Central Vigilance Commissioner asserting that Mr. Thomas was an outstanding civil servant and a person of impeccable integrity.

In its reply to the petition filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation challenging the appointment of Mr. Thomas, the Centre said, “Mr. Thomas is fully eligible to be the CVC as per the CVC Act.”

On the petitioner's contention that Mr. Thomas had been cited as an accused in the ‘Kerala Palmolein import case,' the Centre said the then CVC, in 2007, duly considered the Palmolein case and cleared the involvement of Mr. Thomas in the case.

With the death of the main accused — the former Chief Minister of Kerala, K. Karunakaran — in the case, the Supreme Court had paved the way for commencement of the trial scheduled to come up before the lower court in Thiruvananthapuram on January 25

The Centre said: “The question of suitability is squarely the domain of the appointing authority and suitability of a candidate cannot be raised in judicial proceedings. Further, questions of integrity of an individual are a matter of suitability and not eligibility.”

On the allegation of his processing the file questioning the Comptroller and Auditor-General in the 2G scam, the Centre said the appointment of Mr. Thomas as CVC should not be linked to this because he processed the file in a routine way at the instance of the then Communications Minister, A. Raja. Mr. Thomas, who has also been issued notice, is yet to file his reply in the Supreme Court and the hearing is scheduled on January 27.

On November 8, 2010, the Supreme Court asked the Attorney-General to produce the files relating to the appointment of Mr. Thomas and on November 22, 2010 the Chief Justice of India asked the Attorney-General to take instructions on whether Mr. Thomas could continue in the sensitive post of CVC as a charge sheet was pending against him. Subsequently the court decided to examine the validity of his appointment.

The CPIL had questioned the appointment of Mr. Thomas saying it was made in violation of Section 4 of the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003, and the Supreme Court judgment in the Vineet Narain case.

The petition alleged that in the palmolein case, which dates back to the 1990s when Mr. Thomas was Kerala Food Secretary, a charge sheet was filed and when that criminal case was still pending, he ought not to have been considered for selection at all.

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