CVC appointment: Moily meets PM, Swaraj to file affidavit in apex court (Intro Roundup)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

NEW DELHI - Union Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday evening, fuelling speculation that P.J. Thomas may be asked to step down as Central Vigilance Commissioner following the apex court asking if the correct procedure was followed in his selection and the BJP’s Sushma Swaraj planning to file an affidavit in court to put the record straight on her dissenting note in his selection over a corruption case.

The Bharatiya Janata Party launched a sharp attack on the prime minister over the appointment of Thomas as the CVC, saying the “trail” in the selection leads to his door. The party termed as a “patent lie” the government statement in the court that its selection panel did not know that Thomas was charge sheeted in a corruption case of import of palm oil in Kerala in the 1990s.

Meanwhile, Moily met Manmohan Singh in the evening, apparently to discuss the case of Thomas.

Earlier, Moily told reporters that the government will reply in the court to the allegations of the BJP and its senior leader Sushma Swaraj.

Swaraj said she would file an affidavit in the apex court soon.

Launching an attack on Manmohan Singh, BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said the prime minister “should tell the nation when he learnt that criminal prosecution was pending against Thomas in the palm oil import case”.

Thomas was selected as the CVC in September last by a committee comprising Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Home Minister P. Chidmabaram and Sushma Swaraj. Though Swaraj had given a written dissent, the commitee selected Thomas on a majority basis.

Sushma Swaraj had claimed she opposed the appointment of Thomas, a Kerala cadre IAS officer, as his name had figured in the charge sheet of a corruption case regarding palm oil imports in Kerala in the 1990s.

BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters that Sushma Swaraj had told the committee for selection of the CVC that a charge sheet was pending against Thomas in the palm oil import case.

The Supreme Court Thursday said it wanted to know if correct procedure was followed in the selection of Thomas.

The apex court bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan and Justice Swatanter Kumar asked: “What is the impact of this fact not being revealed to the committee? Doesn’t it vitiate the entire decision making process (for the appointment of CVC)?”

Hearing a petition challenging Thomas’ appointment as the CVC, the court said that before going into the merit of the case it wanted to know if correct procedure was followed.

The court wanted to know whether the CVC was a constitutional post or a statutory post and what was the impact of the oath administered to the CVC by the president before assuming office.

Prasad said Sushma Swaraj had very clearly stated that the government could select from among the two other names before the selection panel and suggested that the process of appointment may be deferred by a day. “But the government insisted on appointing him (Thomas),” Prasad said.

Attacking the prime minister, Prasad said while former communications minister was an alibi in the 2G spectrum scam and Suresh Kalmadi similarly in the Commonwealth Games scam, “the trail in the case of appointment of the CVC leads to the door of the PM”.

“There is no alibi… There is a most scandalous empire under you. The manner in which the government is functioning is utterly callous and deliberately indifferent,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Congress tried to distance from the negative fallout of the Supreme Court case against the CVC. Party general secretary Shakeel Ahmed told reporters that “the government will give appropriate reply to all the queries raised by the court”.

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