Our Bureau

New Delhi, Jan. 27

The Government on Thursday informed the Supreme Court that the issue that there was a chargesheet in the palmolein import case against Mr P.J. Thomas and that sanction was granted by the Kerala Government for his prosecution in the matter, were not placed before the Prime Minister-led high-powered committee that chose him for the post of Central Vigilance Commissioner.

Meanwhile, Ms Sushma Swaraj, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and a member of the selection committee, who had earlier said she had objected to the appointment of Mr Thomas, termed the Government's claim in the apex court as “not at all true.” She was reacting to the Government's submission in the court.

Ms Swaraj said she had brought the “fact” about the corruption charges against Mr Thomas to the notice of the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, and the Home Minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, who were the other two members of the Committee. She added that she would shortly file an affidavit in the apex court on the issue.

The Attorney-General, Mr G.E. Vahanvati, told a Bench headed by the Chief Justice, Mr S.H. Kapadia, that Mr Thomas' bio-data, placed before the three-member Committee headed by Dr Manmohan Singh did not have the material pertaining to the chargesheet and sanction for prosecution of Mr Thomas.

Mr Vahanvati was replying to a query from the Court in this regard.

The Court specified that it was not going into the merits of the palmolein import case, but sought to know if the right procedure was followed in the CVC's appointment.

However, later in the day, the Attorney-General clarified that the Committee may have discussed the issue of corruption charges against Mr Thomas orally.

He said he does not know the specifics of the Committee's discussions as there are no minutes.

He also said he had not stated that the palmolein import case was not discussed by the Committee.

Earlier, during the hearing, the court told advocate Mr Prashant Bhushan, representing petitioner NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation, which had moved the court challenging the legality of the CVC's appointment, that he will have to present his arguments on the point of selection of the CVC.

Mr Bhushan said it is absolutely clear that Mr Thomas cannot be said to be a person of ‘impeccable integrity' as he faces criminal prosecution in a serious corruption case and as he has been criminally charge-sheeted.

Besides, the CVC now will not be able to function independently as the Government has huge leverage over him as prosecution sanction request made by the investigation agency is still pending with the Government, Mr Bhushan said.

The court then wanted to go though the files on Mr Thomas' appointment, to which Mr Vahanvati said all the relevant files will be submitted before the court.

Mr Bhushan also said Mr Thomas was appointed despite dissent of the Leader of Opposition Mr Sushma Swaraj in violation of the spirit, object, purpose and true interpretation of the direction of the Apex Court in Vineet Narain's case as well as Section 4 of the CVC Act.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 28, 2011)
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