New Delhi: Defending his appointment as central vigilance commissioner P.J. Thomas on Tuesday told the Supreme Court that there was no sanction to prosecute him in the Palmolein import case.
In an affidavit, submitted to the apex court, Thomas said that his name was considered for empanelment for the post after the Central Vigilance Commission had given a clearance for it.
He also said he was the senior-most bureaucrat to be considered for the CVC’s job.
Thomas, in his affidavit, said that he has all the qualifications as required under Section 3 of the CVC Act for the job.
He also stated that the inquiry about the documents being placed before “the three-member committee headed by Prime Minister may not be relevant in the light of the fact that all the names on the shortlist were of secretaries to the government, who, by virtue of their process of selection as secretaries are deemed to be of impeccable integrity.”
He said, “It is assumed that by virtue of being secretaries to the Union government where they would have held very sensitive information in ministries like home, external affairs, finance and law & justice, they would be fit to handle responsibilities as chairmen of tribunals.”
He said when names are considered for empanelment as secretaries, vigilance clearances are sought and granted.
In his case, he said, vigilance clearance about him and eight others from the 1972 and 1973 batches of IAS officers was sought.
He said, “There were nine officers who were in the zone of considerations for the post.”
He also mentioned the names of the bureaucrats who were cleared for the empanelment.
He said, “Virtually every single officer in the zone of consideration had complaints or charge sheets pending against them but it is the CVC that looks into the entire material and decides whether clearance ought to be granted or not.
“An impression has been created that my case is a unique one and that I alone suffer some taint against my name. Clearly, it is routine for the officers in discharge of their duties to have cases slapped against them, many of which are trumped-up or politically motivated,” said Thomas.
He said, “In an environment where bureaucrats bear the burnt of protests against the governmental actions, it is necessary that an objective view be taken of how the officers function.”
Thomas said in his case, it was observed that “the Prime Minister has ordered that in view of the fact that there are no disciplinary proceedings in the case, the request of state government regarding withdrawal of the request for sanction of prosecution is noted.
“An additional consideration for the fact that as the event was nearly one-and-a-half decades old, it should not come in the way of my empanelment,” said Thomas.
Thomas also referred to his counter-affidavit filed on 24 January in which he had said that he was caught in a controversy arising out of rivalry between the sitting chief minister and a former chief minister of Kerala.
“That is the very reason...It was the LDF government that granted sanction for the offence under section 120-B of the IPC against the former Chief Minister K Karunakaran as well as other accused (which included me), but the central governments (both NDA and UPA) did not grant sanction under section 19 of the PC Act for over 12 years against me and other all-India service officer Jiji Thompson.”
In his earlier affidavit submitted to the apex court, Thomas said he had defended his appointment saying he was a person of “impeccable integrity”, but had become a “victim of political battle”.
Responding to various petitions seeking his ouster from the post of CVC on the grounds that he was involved in a corruption case related to import of edible oil during his tenure as Kerala food secretary, Thomas, in his first affidavit, had echoed the Centre’s stand that he was an “outstanding officer” with “impeccable integrity”.
Thomas was appointed CVC on 7 September last year, but various civil societies like Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL) and some eminent persons including former chief election commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh have moved the apex court against his appointment as the anti-corruption watchdog.
The petitioners have contended that Thomas cannot be considered as a person of “impeccable integrity” as a charge sheet against him was filed in the Palmolein import scam when he was a secretary in the Kerala ministry of food and civil supplies. He had secured bail from a local court.
The petitioners also alleged that he was appointed against the procedure despite opposition from leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj who was part of the three-member selection panel headed by the Prime Minister.
The petitioners also said he could not be appointed the CVC on account of “conflict of interest” as till recently he was serving as telecom ministry secretary and that there was allegation that he was involved in the “cover-up” of the 2G spectrum scam, which has allegedly caused a huge loss to the state exchequer.