In a major embarrassment to the Union government, the Supreme Court on Monday asked Attorney-General (A-G) G.E. Vahanvati to take instructions on whether P.J. Thomas could continue in the sensitive post of Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) as a charge sheet is pending against him.

Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, heading a three-judge Bench, asked the A-G: “If a person is accused in a criminal case, how he will function as CVC. Whenever the CVC orders any investigation, there will be an application as to how a person facing a charge sheet can order the investigation. He will be faced with such a situation in every case. Keep this functional aspect in mind… We want to know whether he will be able to function at all effectively.”

Mr. Vahanvati said there was no involvement of Mr. Thomas in the palmolein import case and sanction to prosecute him was not processed. “If the criterion [impeccable integrity] has to be included, then every judicial appointment can be subject to scrutiny. Every judicial appointment will be challenged.”

On November 8, the Bench, on a writ petition filed by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation and Common Cause that questioned Mr. Thomas' appointment as CVC, asked the Centre to produce the files on his appointment.

On Monday, when the A-G produced the files, the Chief Justice told him, “We need to go through the files.” Mr. Vahanvati said: “As far as the government is concerned, there is no case against the CVC. Though a charge sheet was pending against him from 2000, charges have not been framed. The Kerala government, in fact, wanted to withdraw the charge sheet but due to change of government it could not be done.”

The Chief Justice told the A-G: “Tell us whether the criterion of ‘impeccable integrity' [as laid down in the Vineet Narain case] is an eligible criterion or not. The issue as to how he will function as CVC when his name is there in a charge sheet will crop up at every stage as in every case the CBI has to report to him.”

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