Cong calls process of appointment of CVC ‘illegal’, seeks withdrawal
The Congress on Wednesday termed “illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional” the process adopted for selecting the next chief vigilance commissioner (CVC) and vigilance commissioner (VC), and demanded that the appointments should be immediately scrapped.
“Unfortunately what happened yesterday has completely vitiated the process of appointing the next CVC and VC and the facts as they stand very clearly demonstrate that both procedure and propriety were thrown to the wind,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said.
The search committee, comprising cabinet secretary Rajiv Gauba, Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) secretary C Chandramouli and finance secretary Rajiv Kumar, held two separate meetings -- one for shortlisting names for the post of CVC and one for VC on November 18, 2019 under the chairmanship of the cabinet secretary, he added.
Addressing a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Delhi, Tewari said the committee recommended a panel of three names -- Ajay Narayan Jha, member of the 15th finance commission, finance secretary Rajiv Kumar and former DoPT secretary Bhanu Pratap Sharma, in alphabetical order for the CVC’s post.
“The finance secretary was a member of the search committee for the CVC and also an applicant and the search committee recommended his name for the CVC’s post. How can an applicant be a member of the search committee? This is absolutely and completely unheard of that you are a judge in your own case,” Tiwari said.
At a meeting of the selection committee on Tuesday, the Congress’ leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury raised objections over the procedure.
The selection committee, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in its meeting finalised the names of Sanjay Kothari, a former secretary to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) and now secretary to the President of India, as the CVC and Bimal Julka, a former information and broadcasting secretary and at present an information Commissioner, as the CIC.
Chowdhury did not give any formal dissent note but objected to the procedure, including the inclusion of the finance secretary in the search committee when he himself was an applicant. .
At the meeting, also attended by Home Minister Amit Shah, Chowdhury objected to the way the CIC was selected. He said there was no search committee to select the CIC, adding that no documents were given to him before the meeting so that he could have gone through those.
Tewari said Chowdhury raised the issue at the meeting and that the PM acknowledged it. “We are informed that the Prime Minister agreed that process is vitiated. What does the government do? The Prime Minister pulls a name from his pocket and appoints Sanjay Kothari the next CVC, a man who is neither an applicant nor in the shortlist,” he said.
“We demand that the process of appointment of CVC should be scrapped, a new search committee be constituted and fresh applications invited and that the appointments be done as per the procedure,” Tewari said.
Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala alleged that the appointments of CVC and CIC are being made arbitrarily.
When contacted, senior BJP leader G V L Narasimha Rao said the Congress was making baseless claims. “The due process, as established by the law, has been followed. The Congress party has been making baseless claims,” Rao said.
Vigilance Commissioner Sharad Kumar has been acting as the interim CVC since July last year. Kumar, a former chief of anti-terror probe agency National Investigation Agency (NIA), took over as Vigilance Commissioner in June 12, 2018. His tenure at the Central Vigilance Commission will end in October next year, when he completes 65 years of age.
The Central Vigilance Commission consists of a CVC and two Vigilance Commissioners.
The post of Chief Information Commissioner, meanwhile, has been lying vacant since the retirement of Sudhir Bhargava in January last year. The CIC is the highest appeal body under the Right to Information Act (RTI).
The government had notified new RTI rules in October last year, curtailing the tenure of information commissioners to three years. The 2005 act gave them a fixed tenure of five years or a retirement age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.