The who's who of Indian bureaucracy had applied for the post of the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) after it fell vacant in March this year when the Supreme Court had quashed the appointment of PJ Thomas.
A Right to Information (RTI) reply shows that 15 serving secretaries to the government of India and 13 retired secretaries were among those who had applied for the coveted top job.
Interestingly, Pradeep Kumar, who was finally chosen for by a three-member selection committee comprising Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, home minister P Chidambaram and leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, did not apply for the job.
Kumar's name was recommended to the selection panel by the Cabinet Secretariat, which shortlisted five names, four of whom were Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officers, the fifth belonged to the Indian Railway Services.
"The committee considered the service profiles and the annual confidential report (ACR) dossiers of officers made available by the empanelling authority, to evaluate their knowledge and experience in matters relating to vigilance," stated the note appointing Kumar as the CVC. It was signed by Singh, Chidambaram and Swaraj on July 2.
Kumar, who was the defence secretary at the time of his appointment as CVC, forwarded names of three colleagues from his ministry for the post, according to the official list.
In April, Alka Sirohi, the secretary in the department of personnel and training (DoPT), wrote to all central ministries and departments, "to seek names of suitable persons for consideration for appointment as the CVC."
Sirohi, in her letter had made it clear that following the Supreme Court guidelines, "the zone of consideration shall not be restricted to civil servants. The Supreme Court has observed that a panel should be prepared of outstanding civil servants or persons of impeccable integrity."
According to the details provided by the DoPT under the RTI, out of a total of 40 names received by it, five were non-bureaucrats, which included Padma Bhushan awardee and private entrepreneur, Ajai Chowdhry of the HCL Info Systems. His name was sent by the department of information technology, but Chowdhry later withdrew his name.