Veteran jurist Ram Jethmalani announced his “break-up” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and threatened to challenge the appointment of former Central Board of Direct Taxes chairman KV Chowdary as chief vigilance commissioner (CVC) on Monday.
Jethmalani and activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan had opposed the move to appoint Chowdary as CVC, the first non-IAS officer to be elevated to the position, questioning his credentials.
“Now we shall fight it out in the Supreme Court and the court of the people of India. My diminishing respect for you ends today,” Jethmalani wrote in a letter to Modi, his second against the appointment.
The break-up caps a dramatic turnaround because Jethmalani had strongly endorsed Modi as the NDA candidate for the prime minister’s post before the 2014 general elections.
Bhushan has alleged that Chowdary, a 1978-batch Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer, was the director general of income tax when the Niira Radia tapes were intercepted but did not initiate action despite possessing evidence.
Besides, the Centre drew flak for another set of appointments on Monday as it picked retired bureaucrats Vijai Sharma as the chief information commissioner and Sudhir Bhargava as information commissioner.
The move comes more than nine months after the watchdog was left without a chief, prompting allegations the Narendra Modi government was trying to weaken the right to information law.
The government’s decision to fill only one of the four vacant posts of information commissioners came under fire from activists. The government didn’t cite any reason why it could not find any suitable candidates from a list of 553 hopefuls – many of them bureaucrats – who had applied.
Anjali Bhardwaj at Satark Nagrik Sangathan said the government could have appointed Bhargava nine months ago. “Why wait so long and weaken the institution?”
RTI activist Lokesh Batra said the commission was now saddled with over 40,000 pending cases because of the delay in filling vacancies.