Chief Vigilance Commissioner P J Thomas resigned from his post on Thursday following the Supreme Court verdict which quashed the appointment of the former bureaucrat.
Soon after the SC judgment was out, Union Law Minister M Veerappa Moily met Prime Manmohan Singh where he reportedly told that if Thomas didn't quit now, he will have to be dismissed.
Meanwhile, the apex court noted that Thomas' appointment is 'illegal' and he must go. The SC also stated that the United Progressive Alliance government ignored the corruption taint on Thomas.
However, the palmolein case was not mentioned in the SC ruling. Thomas is an accused in the case.
The Supreme Court said that the high-powered committee's recommendation on appointment of Thomas 'does not exist in law.'
The committee, for whatsoever reason, failed to consider relevant material recommending action against Thomas, SC also noted.
The apex court rejected the government's contention that vigilance clearance given by the CVC in 2008 was the basis for empanelment of Thomas as a candidate for the post of CVC.
The committee and no government authority focussed on the larger issue of institutional integrity of the office of CVC while recommending the name of Thomas, SC noted.
The apex court stated the touchstone for the appointment of the CVC is the institutional integrity as well as the personal integrity of the candidate.
The SC said any future appointment should not be restricted to civil servants alone but people of impeccable integrity from other fields should also be considered.
The apex court also rejected the contention of Thomas and the government that the appointment of the CVC cannot be brought under judicial review.
It said legality of the recommendation can be brought under judicial review.
Earlier, a bench of Chief Justice S H Kapadia and Justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar had reserved its judgment on February 10. The public interest litigation filed by an NGO, Center for Public Interest Litigation, and retired bureaucrats and police officials, including former Chief Election Commissioner J M Lyngdoh, had challenged Thomas' appointment to the post in view of a pending criminal case against him in a Kerala court.
Thomas was appointed CVC on September 7 last year.
Thomas has contested the PIL contending that he was appointed to the post in view of the vigilance clearance given to him before his appointment as secretary in the Union government.
Further, the embattled CVC had said the corruption case pending against him in the Kerala court was a result of political rivalry between former Chief Minister K Karunakaran and present Chief Minister V S Achuthanandan.
The petitioners have contended Thomas cannot be considered as a person of "impeccable integrity" as a chargesheet was filed against him in 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 have also alleged he was appointed despite strong objections from Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj who was a member of the 3-member panel headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The other ember of the panel is Home Minister P Chidambaram.
The petitioners also said he could not be appointed CVC on account of "conflict of interest" as till recently he was serving as telecom secretary and that there was the allegation that he was involved in an alleged "cover-up" of 2G spectrum scam.
The Comptroller and Auditor General had in its report said the loss to the exchequer as a result of sale of spectrum licenses to certain companies at undervalued prices was to the tune of Rs.1.76 lakh crore.
With inputs from PTI
Image: P J Thomas