New Delhi: After another hellish controversy over his appointment as the Central Vigilance Commissioner, the government is now reportedly expecting PJ Thomas to resign. Sources say he may step down today as there is concern within the government over possible strictures by Supreme Court after Thursday's controversial hearing over his appointment as the CVC.
Mr. Thomas was named the country's most-senior officer in charge of fighting corruption in November 2010 by a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj. The government had over-ruled Ms Swaraj's objections to the appointment.
The Supreme Court which is now reviewing Mr. Thomas' nomination asked the government on Thursday if the PM's committee was aware that Mr. Thomas had been charge sheeted in a case of corruption when it reviewed his eligibility. The top court questioned the Centre, "When (Thomas) is appointed as CVC, are these facts relevant before the committee? Will it not vitiate the decision of appointing Thomas as CVC?"
Attorney General GE Vahanvati said that documents relating to the case against Mr. Thomas had not been circulated among the panel.
Ms Swaraj asserted after the court hearing that "I personally brought this to the notice of the Prime Minister and the Home Minister... but the government is speaking one untruth after another. So I have decided to file my affidavit before the Supreme Court."
With the matter showing every sign of turning into a political tsunami, the government crashed into damage-control mode. Home Minister P Chidambaram reportedly phoned the Attorney General from Davos. Mr. Vahanvati then addressed reports and clarified his remarks in court.
He said that all that he had placed on record was that papers on Mr. Thomas' case were not given to the committee. He also said he did not know if committee had discussed Mr. Thomas' case orally, and that when he raised that point, the judges told him that was not relevant.
Hours after the developments in the Supreme Court, Law Minister Veerappa Moily is said to have met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss the matter. Then late last night, two Home Ministry officials reportedly went to Thomas' house with some documents. As the CVC was not in, they waited for a while and returned soon after he arrived.
Mr. Thomas is one of a group of people accused of sanctioning the import of edible oil at astronomical prices when he was Food Secretary in Kerala in 1991-92. That decision allegedly cost the government Rs 20 crore.
Thomas had earlier opposed the petition in the Supreme Court seeking his removal from the post. In his affidavit, he said he was a person of "impeccable integrity" and that he became a "victim of political battle" in Kerala.
Government sources say that the Supreme Court's remarks on Thursday have led the government to believe that it's in for more serious censure in court. The act that deals office of the CVC states that the Commissioner cannot be fired - he will have to be impeached. The government is hoping that Mr. Thomas will spare it further embarrassment and quit.
The case will be heard again next week.