Supreme Court strikes down P J Thomas as vigilance chief

Thomas

The Supreme Court on Thursday quashed the appointment of P J Thomas as the Chief Vigilance Commissioner, thereby answering decisively the question over his eligibility to sit on that chair since he faces a criminal case in Kerala.

In what comes as an embarrassment for the UPA government, the court said the recommendation made by the Prime Minister's high-powered committee to appoint Thomas did not consider the relevant material (case against him) and as such its advice "does not exist in law".

The Bench of Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatantar Kumar also ignored a desperate plea from Thomas himself that he was a man of 'impeccable integrity'.

The Supreme Court was extremely critical of the Prime Minister's panel that appointed Thomas to the post overruling strong opposition from its only BJP member Sushma Swaraj.

The apex court said the PM panel's appointment of Thomas was against the 'institutional integrity' that the CVC stands for. The court said the panel's choice amounted to 'official arbitrariness'.

The apex court was scathing in its observation that the PM panel's recommendation was not an 'informed decision'.

The court observed: "We declare that the recommendation made by the high-powered committee is non-est in law. Which means that the recommendations made on September 3, 2010 does not exist in law. Consequently, the appointment of Thomas goes."

The court also observed: "The high-powered committee has to take into consideration what is good for the institution and not for the candidate. The touchstone is public interest."

The court further said the CVC is a "high integrity institution". "If selection affects institutional competency, it was the duty of the high-powered committee to not recommend such a candidate," the Bench observed.

The court said the committee failed to consider relevant material against Thomas and the entire focus was on his bio-data and that none of the government bodies focussed on the larger issue of institutional integrity.

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