New Delhi: The Selection Committee meeting
to choose Central Vigilance Commissioner in September last year
did discuss the issue of Palmolein case against PJ Thomas,
Home Minister P Chidambaram said on Monday but parried a question
whether a "charge sheeted" person should have been appointed.
Addressing a press conference, he was happy to agree with
the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj that the
Committee discussed the issue of a pending case against Thomas
before he was named the CVC.
"We did discuss the names of the panel. In fact, the bulk
of the time (of discussion) was regarding PJ Thomas and
Palmolein case. She (Swaraj) made her points, the other
members (PM and HM) of the Committee made their points.
"It was brought to the notice of the Committee during the
discussion that although the case was registered, no sanction
of prosecution was granted by the NDA government from December
1999 to May 2004 and by the UPA government subsequently,"
When the trial of the case was stayed by the Supreme
Court between 2007 and 2008, the Central Vigilance Commission
had held that no case was made against Thomas and Jiji
Thompson, another IAS official. Then Thomas was granted
vigilance clearance (for appointment as Secretary in the
Government), he said.
"There could not have been a discussion for several
minutes without bringing these facts before the Committee.
There could not have been a disagreement without a
discussion," the Home Minister said.
Citing a statement of the Attorney General that when the
apex court had put a specific question whether papers and
files relating to the case against Thomas were "circulated"
during the meeting on September 3, the AG had said, "I had
said the papers and files were not circulated."
"It was never stated (by the AG) that there was no
discussion on the case against Thomas," Chidambaram said
quoting the Attorney General.
"I am happy to agree with the Leader of Opposition that
the matter was discussed," the minister said.
When a questioner asked how the government could have
appointed a "corrupt" man facing a charge sheet to the post of
CVC, he shot back saying, "I respect your right to hold a point
of view similarly you should also respect our point of view.
The matter is actively sub-judice."
Chidambaram prefaced his reply to the question on Thomas
saying he was "reluctant" to answer it because the matter was
pending before the Supreme Court.
"I am very reluctant to answer the question not because
the question is wrong or I have no answer but because I was
taught and trained to respect the rule of sub-judice.
"I am horrified that cases that are being actively heard
by the courts of law are being discussed widely by political
leaders and media. I am disappointed that the courts are not
pulling up people. I am answering (this question) reluctantly
and with a great sense of disappointment," Chidambaram said.
Last week during a Supreme Court hearing, the AG`s
statement that the material relating to Thomas` case was not
placed before the three-member Selection Committee headed by
the Prime Minister had created a controversy.
Swaraj had said the government was lying in the apex
court and that she would file an affidavit explaining her
dissent about Thomas in view of the case against him.