The government on Thursday told the Supreme Court that once a bureaucrat is given a vigilance nod for appointment as secretary, no further clearance is required for empanelment for appointment as the central vigilance commissioner.
"Once a person is appointed as secretary on clearance by the CVC, he can be considered for empanelment and no further inquiry is required," Attorney General G E Vahanvati submitted before a bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia.
Vahanvati made the submission while responding to various questions by the bench, which also sought his view on the criteria of impeccable integrity required for appointment as the central vigilance commissioner.
"Impeccable integrity is an important requirement," Vahanvati said, responding to queries from the bench. But as the bench asked, "Does it apply to all cases where there is a stigma of charge-sheet", the attorney general said, "This is a grey area."
The law officer contended that filing of the charge-sheet is not a stigma when the bench posed a question. The court wanted to know if a bureaucrat, accorded vigilance clearance for appointment as secretary, does not require any further examination for appointment for posts above that of the secretary.
During the hearing, advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the Centre for Public Interest litigation, which has moved court challenging the appointment of P J Thomas as CVC, said various factors about the Palmolein import case were not before the CVC when it gave vigilance clearance to Thomas.
The CVC had not taken into account the charge-sheet pending against him, he claimed, adding the issue of sanction for his prosecution by the state government was not brought before the anti-corruption watchdog.
The case diary was also not brought before the CVC, he said, contending that the report of the committee of public undertaking in Kerala was also not presented before it.
"The CVC gave clearance to Thomas only on the basis of the note placed before it by the department of personnel and training," he said.
"The CVC cannot be the final authority," the bench said, stressing that the appointment has to be in accordance with the Vineet Narain judgment which makes it clear that the CVC has to remain independent, impartial, free and fair and uninfluenced by political executives.
Vahanvati said the criterion of an outstanding person with impeccable integrity has to be taken undoubtedly into consideration for appointment as CVC. The bench, however, said, that in the given case, the issue of charge-sheet and sanction for prosecution of Thomas were not considered by the personnel and training ministry and others.
The bench wanted to know if the material facts were not considered, then what would be the position. Vahanvati also said that the vigilance clearance given by the CVC to Thomas in 2007 was not challenged by anyone.
"Nobody ever challenged what CVC said. All these facts were placed before him," he said.
He said there was a detailed office memo in 2005 dealing with the case in which the state government had said that the whole case has to be withdrawn. While Vahanvati was making the submission, the bench asked if the CVC can say that there is no merit in a case pending before the high court when a charge-sheet too has been filed in it. Totality of the circumstances has to be considered in the case, the bench said.
At this, the attorney general said, "All sorts of allegations are being levelled."
This prompted the bench to remark, "That is why we are not going on the merits of the case but only examining it on the law."
The court also wanted to know if the CVC report on Thomas was placed before the committee headed by the prime minister, which went into the selection of CVC. The attorney general said it was never placed before the committee.
"It is not required to be placed once empanelment is given. Once there is a CVC clearance and empanelment, it is difficult to hold another enquiry," he said.
At this point, senior advocate K K Venugopal submitted that Thomas has never gone to court about the case.