The selection committee meeting to chose Central Vigilance Commissioner in September last year did discuss the issue of Palmolein case against P J Thomas, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said on Monday but parried a question whether a "chargesheeted" 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 the discussion was regarding P J Thomas and the Palmolein case. 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 National Democratic Alliance government from December 1999 to May, 2004 and by the UPA government subsequently," Chidambaram said.
When the trial of the case was stayed by the Supreme Court between 2007 and 2008, the CVC had held that no case was made against Thomas and Jiji Thompson, another Indian Administrative Service 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.
Chidambaram cited 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 top law officer had said, "I had said the papers and files were not circulated. It was never stated 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," he added.
When a questioner asked how the government could have appointed a "corrupt" man facing a chargesheet 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. I am reluctantly answering the questions relating to Thomas, as I was taught to respect sub-judice. I am horrified at the manner in which people have gone on record. The court should pull up such persons," 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.
PC compliments J&K CM
During the media briefing, Chidambaram also complimented Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah for tactfully handling the chaos created in the state because of the Bharatiya Janata Party's Ekta Yatra.
"As you are aware, the BJP attempted to take the yatra to Srinagar ostensibly to hoist the national flat at Lal Chowk. Despite my appeal to the BJP leaders were determined to defy the restrictive orders issued by the government of Jammu and Kashmir. Hence, they were moved to Madhopur in Punjab," the home minister said.
He said Abdullah had called on him on January 19 to discuss the security situation in the state in the wake of the Ekta Yatra. He denied that he was hand in glove with the CM in stopping the BJP leaders from travelling through the state and reach Lal Chowk, as alleged by Arun Jaitley.Chidambaram said he would pay a two-day visit to Jammu on February 3 and 4, but did not give details of the purpose of the visit.
With inputs from agencies