The Supreme Court on Monday asked Central Vigilance Commissioner PJ Thomas - in the eye of a storm after opposition parties and Public Interest Litigation (PIL) questioned his competence to continue in office — to explain his position by January 27.
Thomas is an accused in a case of alleged corruption. He was appointed CVC in September, ignoring objections raised by the leader of opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, leading to demands that he be replaced. During hearings on the PILs against him, SC had made scathing remarks about the CVC, embarrassing the government.
On Monday, SC’s decision to ask Thomas to explain his position allowed breathing space for both him and the government, which is facing an opposition onslaught on several issues including this.
Thomas said: “I am glad that the court has given me an opportunity to present my case. This (reply to the notice) will be done in form of a counter-affidavit. All details will be submitted.”
Senior government sources continued to indicate that the CVC will resign after explaining his position to the court and after the union department of personnel turns down a sanction for his prosecution, the request for which is pending for more than a decade now.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India SH Kapadia is hearing the PILs also asked the Centre to file an affidavit. SC notice to Thomas comes after the court went through the original files related to his appointment and concluded that it needed to delve further into the matter. “We have gone through the files and this matter requires final hearing,” the bench told Attorney General GE Vahanvati.
Petitioner’s counsel Prashant Bhushan Bhushan placed on record two government circulars laying down guidelines for promotion and vigilance clearance of officers facing criminal cases. Both specify that an officer facing a case “ordinarily” should not be promoted nor given vigilance clearance.
The petitioners want the SC to declare Thomas’s appointment as illegal on the ground that it violated Section 4 of the Central Vigilance Commission Act as the Prime Minister and the Home Minister insisted on his name despite objection raised by Swaraj.
On the last two hearings, the CJI had asked some embarrassing questions over Thomas’s functioning as the CVC. Thomas had recused himself from supervising the CBI probe into the 2G scam after another SC bench said it would be improper for him to do so as he was the telecom secretary when the 2G spectrum was allocated in 2008.