The government on Monday backed Central Vigilance Commissioner, P J Thomas telling the Supreme Court that “impeccable integrity” was not a prerequisite for appointment as head of the country’s anti-corruption watchdog.
In a 93-page affidavit before the Supreme Court, the government said impeccable integrity was only a suitability criterion and therefore, Thomas’s appointment could not be questioned before a court on this ground. The affidavit has been filed in response to a PIL challenging Thomas’s appointment as CVC on the ground that he has been chargesheeted in Kerala’s Palmolein oil scam.
An SC bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia, examining the validity of his appointment, had specifically asked Attorney General G E Vahanvati if impeccable integrity was a criterion for appointing a CVC.
Thomas is yet to file his affidavit. The government affidavit called Thomas an “outstanding officer of impeccable integrity.”
Defending his role in the 2G scam case, the government said Thomas’s note questioning CAG’s power to audit the allocation of licenses in 2G spectrum was at the instance of former Telecom Minister A Raja. Thomas had written the note as the telecom secretary.
The government added that the senior bureaucrat’s appointment as CVC cannot be challenged on the basis of routine departmental communications.
As integrity was a suitability issue, the Centre claimed courts could go into the eligibility criterion but did not have the jurisdiction to question suitability criterion. “Question of a candidate’s suitability was squarely the domain of the appointing authority,” it stated.
The affidavit declared Thomas as a fully eligible candidate under the CVC Act. Also, it added, the CVC had given him clearance before he was promoted during his earlier appointments. With regard to the Palmolein oil scam, the Centre claimed it was a politically motivated case and that sanction for his prosecution is yet to be granted.
The Centre denied the argument that consensus or unanimity among the members of the selection committee was a must. It contended that it was impossible to appoint someone on the basis of this principle.