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‘Judiciary can’t test CVC suitability’

NEW DELHI: Judiciary is not the forum to test P J Thomas’s suitability as central vigilance commissioner, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Monday.

The government attached little importance to the court’s query about Thomas’s suitability as CVC. The Executive’s sole prerogative to satisfy itself on the suitability of a candidate could not be questioned in a judicial forum, it said in an affidavit. “The PM and the home minister found Thomas as the most suitable candidate to hold the post of the central vigilance commissioner,” it said, making light of leader of opposition Sushma Swaraj’s dissent which fuelled the demand for his resignation.

It said unanimity in a democratic selection process did not always work. “Merely because one member of the committee (Swaraj) did not agree with the majority view, the majority view cannot be termed as illegal,” the Centre said.

Ruling party leaders had failed to persuade Thomas to resign after filing of a PIL, which sought quashing of his appointment. Fresh hearing on the PIL, on which the court had sought responses of the Centre and Thomas, is scheduled for January 27. The Centre backed Thomas’s selection, integrity and suitability for CVC’s post. It said, “The question of suitability of a candidate is squarely the domain of the appointing authority. The argument about suitability of a candidate cannot be raised in judicial proceedings.”

Less than two months ago, the court had said even if Thomas had impeccable integrity, the pending chargesheet would pose difficulty. “Whenever he will entertain a complaint and order inquiry, he will face the question — ‘you yourself are an accused, how can you look into another complaint’,” it had said.

Last month, the court had asked the Centre and Thomas to respond to a PIL, which sought quashing of his appointment because he was accused of criminal conspiracy in the palmolein oil import scam. High priced import of oil in the 1990s allegedly caused huge loss to Kerala. This month, the court cleared the way for resumption of trial in the case.

The Centre told the court that Thomas was cleared of any wrongdoing in the palmolein import scam by the CVC in October 2009, prior to his appointment as telecom secretary in the Union government through a rigorous process.

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