Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj has decided against filing an affidavit in the Supreme Court in connection with the controversy over the appointment of P.J. Thomas as the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC).
In a detailed statement of what transpired at a three-member committee meeting on September 3 last where Mr. Thomas was selected as the CVC, and earlier on her Twitter account, Ms. Swaraj said since “the Home Minister has admitted that I raised the palmolein oil import case [involving Mr. Thomas] at the meeting and recorded my disagreement precisely for this reason, there is no dispute over facts. Therefore, there is no need for my affidavit.”
The selection committee is headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and comprises Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Ms. Swaraj.
The Bharatiya Janata Party leader said that at the meeting she was told Mr. Thomas was acquitted in the case and he was promoted as Secretary after the palmolein case. Against this she argued that she was not convinced the case was over and there was a “big difference between the position of a Secretary and that of the CVC.”
Ms. Swaraj said she suggested that the meeting be postponed by a day so that all the facts of the case could be established. However, the Prime Minister wanted the selection of the CVC from a panel of three names to be finalised at that very meeting and was not agreeable to finalising any other name from the panel. At that stage, she insisted she would record her dissent, which she did.
Last month, after reports that the Attorney General, in a submission before the Supreme Court, stated that the selection committee had no information on the involvement of Mr. Thomas in the palmolein case, she decided to file an affidavit to counter this as the truth was different, Ms. Swaraj said. After all, she had brought the issue of the palmolein case before the committee, and it was discussed. Since then the Home Minister had admitted such a discussion took place and, therefore, there was no need for her affidavit.
Responding to questions from reporters, Ms. Swaraj said ever since this matter was in the court she had had no telephonic talk with the Home Minister or the Prime Minister on this subject.
She emphasised that since a panel of three names were before the committee, her simple argument was that she would be willing to go along with either of the other two names, but would not agree on Mr. Thomas, as a CVC must be of impeccable integrity.
In her view even if a man was charged and acquitted, he would not fit the bill as there were many other officers on which not a shadow of doubt had ever been cast, she said.
On Mr. Chidambaram's remark that neither the National Democratic Alliance government between 1999 and 2004 nor the subsequent United Progressive Alliance government had given sanction to prosecute Mr. Thomas, there were some doubts expressed by senior BJP leaders on whether the Centre or the State government was the sanctioning authority. “The case was stayed by the court. How could the Centre have given sanction?” a senior BJP leader and former Minister said.