NEW DELHI, March 3 � Slamming the Prime Minister- headed High-Powered Committee, the Supreme Court today quashed the controversial appointment of P J Thomas as CVC, who is facing a corruption case, delivering a major blow to the Government already reeling under a rash of scams, reports PTI
Holding that the touchstone for the appointment of CVC is the �institutional integrity� as well as the personal integrity of the candidate, the court faulted on grounds of arbitrariness and ignoring �relevant material� the HPC�s decision to recommend Thomas(60) for making him the head of anti-corruption watchdog.
Shortly after the judgement, Law Minister Veerappa Moily said Thomas, who was made Central Vigilance Commissioner on September seven last in the face of dissent by opposition, has resigned but his lawyer disputed it.
However, experts say the question of resignation does not arise as the court has struck down the appointment holding that the recommendation by the HPC headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is �non est� (does not exist) in law.
Disposing of a PIL filed by an NGO CPIL and others that included former CEC J M Lyngdoh, the court said �It is declared that the September 3, 2010 recommendation of the HPC recommnending the name of P J Thomas as CVC under the proviso to Section 4(1) of the 2003 Act is non-est(does not exist) in law and, consequently, his impugned appointment as CVC is quashed. His appointment goes.�
As the government suffered a major embarassment, the opposition latched on to the judgement to target the prime minister and asked him to own up responsibility. They claimed vindication of their stand.
The prime minister himself made a brief comment saying he respected the apex court verdict and sources said government will make a statement in Parliament. A three-member bench of the court headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia rejected the contention of Thomas and the government that the appointment of CVC cannot be brought under judicial review and said the legality of the recommendation can very much be reviewed by it.
Coming down heavily on the HPC�s decision, the court said in future appointments to CVC�s post should not be restricted to civil servants alone and that people of impeccable integrity from other fields should be considered.
Thomas, a former IAS officer of 1973 batch who was appointed as CVC on September 7 last despite a dissenting note by Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj in the HPC, is facing a corruption case in a Kerala court relating to Palmolein imports in 1991 that allegedly caused a loss of over Rs two crore to the state.
Thomas was the Food Secretary in the Kerala government at the time of import and the then chief minister K Karunakaran, who died recently, was also another accused in the case.
Thomas� appointment as CVC had come under attack from the opposition which alleged that it was made to cover up 2G scam investigations. Incidentally, he was the Telecom Secretary before he was made the CVC.
The 71-page verdict written by Justice Kapadia noted that not only the corruption case was pending against Thomas but there were notings by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) which had repeatedly recommended �penalty proceedings� against him between 2000 and 2004.
The bench, which also included justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar, held that institutional integrity of the CVC is the primary consideration which the HPC failed to take into account while recommending Thomas for appointnment as CVC.
�In the present case, this vital aspect has not been taken into account by the HPC while recommending the name of P J Thomas for appointment as CVC. We do not wish to discount personal integrity of the candidate,� said the bench.