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Kerala CM refutes charge, says Chavan is lying

Agencies  New Delhi, March 10, 2011
First Published: 19:54 IST(10/3/2011) | Last Updated: 21:35 IST(10/3/2011)

Under attack from the opposition for recommending ex-bureaucrat P.J. Thomas for the chief vigilance commissioner's post, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan arrived here Thursday to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi and other leaders, party sources said.

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Asserting that the state had apprised the Centre of the palmolein graft case in which Thomas was an accused, Kerala Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan has accused his Maharashtra counterpart Prithviraj Chavan of ''lying'' on the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) P J Thomas appointment fiasco to ''hide his fault''.

Achuthanandan said Chavan, who was Minister of State in the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) at the time of the controversial selection of PJ Thomas as Central Vigilance Commissioner, was lying.

"Though the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had owned responsibility for the error of judgment, Chavan is now trying to blame the Kerala Government to hide his fault in recommending the name of Thomas for the CVC post," he said.

The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, on Tuesday blamed his then junior Minister Prithviraj Chavan for omitting to mention the charge-sheeting of P.J. Thomas in the file put up to the three-member panel, headed by Dr. Singh himself, to consider the official''s suitability for the post of Central Vigilance Commissioner.

The Prime Minister also admitted to a lapse of judgment on his part.

"Until I went to the meeting, I was not aware that there was any such case, that too involving corruption till Leader of the Opposition [Lok Sabha] Sushma Swaraj raised it at the selection meeting," he said.

Dr. Singh told the Rajya Sabha that he approved the appointment because he felt the official must have been cleared of the charges as he had then taken up two senior-level appointments - Chief Secretary of Kerala and Union Telecom Secretary.

Pointing out that the files for such selections were prepared under the guidance of Minister of State in charge of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), Dr. Singh said: "The honest answer is that the note which was prepared by the DoPT...did not contain this information about charge sheet."

"Since the gentleman was appointed Chief Secretary, Government of Kerala, and that he was appointed as Secretary to two departments of the Government of India, I thought vigilance matters must have been looked into and therefore we went ahead with the selection process," he added.

Chavan had said that Thomas was cleared for Central deputation by the Kerala Government after the Prime Minister claimed that then Minister of State of Department of Personnel and Training (Chavan) for not mentioning that Thomas had been charge sheeted in the palmolein case.

Thomas, who is facing a corruption case in a Kerala court, handed over his resignation to the government last Thursday after the Supreme Court struck down his appointment as the CVC.

A three-judge bench headed by the Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia delivered its verdict on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that sought removal of Thomas from the position of CVC.

The apex court, which had on February 10 reserved its on petitions challenging the appointment of Thomas, said that the appointment was illegal and that he must go.

The Centre for Public Interest Litigation, an NGO and others had earlier challenged Thomas''s appointment as the CVC, quoting the Palmolein import corruption case in which Thomas is an accused.

Political parties, led by the Left, have demanded action against Chavan. Reacting to Manmohan Singh's statement, Kerala Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan said that he had written a letter to Chavan mentioning the charge-sheet against Thomas in a corruption case regarding import of palmoline in the 1990s.

During his visit, Chavan will meet also Mohan Prakash, the newly-appointed party in-charge of Maharashtra, the sources said. (With IANS, ANI inputs)


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