Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) PJ Thomas, criticised for being chargesheeted in the Palmolein oil import scam and yet staying on as head of the country's top corruption watchdog, defended himself in court on Monday by saying that a large number of MPs, too, were facing criminal charges.
Senior counsel KK Venugopal submitted on behalf of Thomas that 153 MPs were facing criminal charges and 74 of them were charged with serious offences such as murder.
"They are the persons making laws for us," Venugopal told a bench headed by Chief Justice of India SH Kapadia. He said they were not disqualified because the Representation of the People Act did not provide for it.
There were officials who were holding office despite sanction of prosecution against them, he told the bench, which is hearing two petitions challenging Thomas' appointment as CVC.
Emphasising that it was not open to the court to add qualifications or disqualifications that were not provided for in the CVC Act, Venugopal said it was beyond the purview of judicial review.
When the court asked if relevant documents were circulated among the members of the appointment committee headed by the PM, attorney general GE Vahanvati said "No", adding that this would not "vitiate" Thomas' appointment.
"With the agenda papers, it should have been placed before the members," the Bench said.
To this, Venugopal said that generally, such records were kept ready by the secretary concerned and produced before the committee when asked for.
"Don't you think the agenda paper is supposed to contain all the information? Why was the most relevant material not accompanying the agenda papers? This is what is bothering us," the Bench responded.
It pointed out that as per SC's judgments, non-consideration of incontrovertible material facts could vitiate an appointment.
The court set the last date of hearing for February 17, when it will conclude the matter.