Amid all the controversies surrounding the appointment of P.J. Thomas as the Central Vigilance Commissioner, one thing is clear: he did not qualify — and was clearly not fit — for the job. By insisting before the Supreme Court that the 'full facts' relating to Mr. Thomas were not placed before the high-power committee to finalise the appointment of the CVC, Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati might have tried to draw a veil over the roles of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, members of the committee along with the Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj, in a shockingly bad selection process, which he claimed "will not vitiate" Mr. Thomas's appointment.
At the time of the selection, a charge sheet was pending against Mr. Thomas; and the Kerala government had granted initial sanction for his prosecution in the palmolein import case. Is it believable that the Prime Minister and the Home Minister were ignorant of these damning facts while making the decision to appoint Mr. Thomas as CVC — the country's highest institutional authority to probe charges of corruption? Or did the Prime Minister choose to overlook these facts? Mr. Vahanvati's weak defence is that the relevant papers and file were not placed before the committee by the Department of Personnel. Ms Swaraj strongly disputes this plea of ignorance, asserts that both the Prime Minister and the Home Minister were aware of the details of the charges against Mr. Thomas, that she specifically called attention to them, and even entered a note of dissent. She will refute the government's factual claims in an affidavit before the Supreme Court.
The latest development leaves Mr. Thomas without a fig leaf of protection. Evidently, his appointment, overriding the objections of the Leader of the Opposition and ignoring facts that were in the public realm, was for politically expedient reasons that would not see the light of day. That the CVC chose not to step down despite several adverse observations made by the Supreme Court is shameful enough. That the government has shielded him up to this point and officially claimed that his appointment was 'not vitiated' despite the highly coloured circumstances of the selection is shocking. For Mr. Thomas to continue in his post a day longer will be to flout all norms of institutional propriety and clean governance.
The Congress might try to cut its losses by pressuring him to resign. But if he exploits the complicated procedure for the removal of the CVC under the provisions of the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003 to cling on to office, the Prime Minister and the already beleaguered United Progressive Alliance regime will have a greater political price to pay.