The Supreme Court on Monday directed the government to produce before it the file relating to present Chief Vigilance Commissioner PJ Thomas' appointment.
Granting two weeks time to do so, a bench headed by Chief Justice SH Kapadia also asked the attorney general GE Vahanvati to convince the court that the government had followed the eligibility criteria while appointing Thomas as the new CVC.
"We want to know whether the eligibility criteria of the outstanding civil servant has been followed or not. This is the touchstone on which the entire matter depends. We would like to see the file (first)," said a bench of Chief Justice SH Kapadia on a public interest litigation (PIL) questioning the new CVC's integrity.
One of the eligibility criteria is that the candidate should be an outstanding civil servant. The criteria was laid down by SC in which it had also held the appointment should take place after proper consultation between the three members of a committee comprising the Prime Minister, Home Minister and the leader of opposition in the Parliament.
Thomas' appointment has been challenged before SC as his name figures in a charge sheet in the Palmoleine export scam. Thomas was then Kerala's Secretary in the state Ministry of Food and Civil Supplies and had secured bail from the local court. However, the state hasn't yet sanctioned his prosecution in the case. Thomas was once again drawn into a controversy after he allegedly tried to cover-up the 2G spectrum scam. His appointment was opposed by the opposite leader and BJP MP, Sushma Swaraj.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) alleged Thomas' appointment despite leader of opposition's objections was in violation of Section 4 of the Central Vigilance Commission Act. According to Bhushan this showed that the government had decided in advance to appoint Thomas.
Vahanvati refuted the allegations vehemently. He defended Thomas' role in the Palmoleine scam and said he had implemented a scheme following a cabinet decision. He further informed the bench that there was a stay order following which the case has not proceeded.
"There is no sanction to prosecute him," he told the bench.
Bhushan, however, said Thomas' appointment as the head of the anti-corruption watchdog was in "conflict of interest."
"Till recently he was serving as the secretary in the Telecom Ministry when he had procured a report stating that neither courts nor CAG had the authority to conduct probe into the 2G scam," Bhushan claimed in the court.
He added that while SC and Parliament had held that the three-member committee would select the CVC, it was patently obvious that the said committee would decide by unanimity or consensus.
"It was nowhere said that the committee would decide by majority, as done in this case," Bhushan said.