In another embarrassment to the government in this season of scams, the Supreme Court on Thursday said the appointment of PJ Thomas as central vigilance commissioner (CVC) was illegal.
The CVC supervises CBI probes and corruption cases against bureaucrats. Thomas is the first CVC to be removed because he has a corruption charge pending against him.
A three-judges bench headed by Chief Justice SH Kapadia ruled that the recommendation of a high-powered committee (HPC) headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to appoint Thomas as CVC despite a corruption case pending against him in a trial court in Kerala was arbitrary and illegal.
“It is the independence and impartiality of an institution like the CVC that has to be maintained and preserved in the larger interest of the rule of law,” the bench said while observing that the institution was more important than an individual.
Thomas may file a review petition in the Supreme Court, his counsel Wills Mathews said. Dismissing reports that Thomas had resigned, Mathews said he would go through the judgment and consider “whether to resign or file a review petition”.
The court said the recommendation to appoint Thomas was not an informed one as it not only ignored the pending corruption case against him but also six crucial notings made by DoPT, proposing penalty proceedings against Thomas. The recommendation to impose a penalty on Thomas was supported in 2003 by the then CVC.
The bench indicted the DoPT for not placing the complete record before the HPC and questioned the manner in which the then CVC granted vigilance clearance to Thomas in 2008 for his empanelment as secretary at the Centre. The court refused to accept the Centre’s argument that after the then CVC’s clearance, Thomas was fit for appointment. It also rejected the plea of the government that appointment of the CVC can’t be judicially reviewed.
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