Right to Information (RTI) activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal says there is something suspicious about why the Cabinet Secretariat is not divulging the full biodata of former Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) Polayil Joseph Thomas, and other details about him that were placed before the high power committee headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Mr. Agrawal, who had sought these details and filed an appeal against the order of the Chief Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the Cabinet Secretariat before the Appellate Authority, alleged in his latest petition that some rules were amended to select the 1973 Kerala cadre IAS officer as the CVC.
Similarly, information about Mr. Thomas’ service in the Kerala government as the Food Secretary during 1991-93, when he was included as one of the accused in the palmolein oil import scam, was also not provided, said the RTI activist.
According to Mr. Agrawal, the present CPIO of the Cabinet Secretariat, as per the directions of the Chief Information Commissioner, revisited the entire RTI query posed by him on Mr. Thomas’ appointment and issued an order on September 27, 2012. But the CPIO had not given the complete information he had sought for, the activist said, adding something had been “hidden.”
At the meeting of the high power committee to select the new CVC, committee member and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, recorded her objection to the appointment of Mr. Thomas to the post. She had written: “I disagree” in the file. Home Minister P. Chidambaram was the other member of the committee at that time.
It may be recalled that on March 2, 2011 the Supreme Court quashed the appointment of Mr. Thomas as the CVC. A Bench of then Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia and Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar set aside his appointment, acting on some writ petitions. And within hours of the judgment, Mr. Thomas resigned.
Justice Kapadia, who wrote the judgment, held the high power committee’s decision as invalid and pointed out that as of date, Mr. Thomas was accused No. 8 in the Kerala palmolein case pending in the Court of a Special Judge, Thiruvananthapuram, for offences under Section 13(2) read with 13(1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and under Section 120B (conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.
The Bench, quoting an earlier judgment, said eligibility criteria would indicate that eligible persons should be without any blemish and should not be appointed merely because they were eligible to be considered for the post.