Simply because a charge sheet is pending, it will not affect his consideration
Attorney-General (AG) G.E. Vahanvati on Thursday strongly defended in the Supreme Court the appointment of P.J. Thomas as Central Vigilance Commissioner, saying the criterion of ‘impeccable integrity' was in-built in the provisions of the CVC Act.
When Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia told the AG, “As the CVC is appointed by the President, who only can remove him, he takes oath of office. While so, what should be the weightage you give to the parameters laid down in the Vineet Narain case, viz impeccable integrity as also the rule of law as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution [right to life and liberty],” Mr. Vahanvati said the criterion of proper selection had been built into Section 3 (3) of the Act.
The AG maintained that Mr. Thomas had fulfilled the eligibility criterion to be considered for appointment as the CVC. “To come to the conclusion that he is ineligible, one has to say he is unsuitable, but it is not so in his case.” When the Chief Justice asked “whether a person facing a charge sheet will fulfil the criterion of impeccable integrity,” Mr. Vahanvati said: “Simply because a charge sheet is pending, it will not affect his consideration [for appointment] as the CVC [Central Vigilance Commission] had earlier had gone into all aspects and had given its clearance.”
The Chief Justice also said: “The committee cannot simply say, we agree, you [Leader of the Opposition] disagree. We will appoint him. There must be something to indicate that they [the Prime Minister and the Home Minister] had applied their mind in making the selection.”
“Cover-up in 2G scam”
Earlier, counsel Prashant Bhushan asked, “How will Mr. Thomas function as CVC when a sword of charge sheet/sanction is hanging over his head?”
Counsel alleged that Mr. Thomas played a big part in the cover-up of the 2G spectrum allocation scam. As the court had specifically directed the CBI to investigate the role of Telecom department officers who did not take any action against the licensees who failed to fulfil the mandatory roll-out obligations, Mr. Thomas faced criminal investigation, arrest and prosecution. Mr. Thomas, during his one-year tenure as Telecom Secretary, did not take any action against those beneficiaries of the 2G spectrum licences who had failed to fulfil their rollout obligations.
On the government's contention that the selection of the CVC was only by majority, Mr. Bhushan said that since the committee was composed of only three members, the purpose of including the Leader of the Opposition would be defeated if the panel recommendations were arrived at by majority, which was bound to exclude the Leader of the Opposition.
“No minutes of meeting”
There was no record to show that Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj wanted to stall the appointment of Mr. Thomas and keep the post vacant. “There are no minutes of the said meeting, but only the dissent note is recorded,” Mr. Bhushan said, adding her opposition was valid because the appointment was vitiated.
Arguments will continue on February 3.