Days after it pushed a new law to scrap collegium system of judges’ appointment citing lack of transparency, the government got a taste of its own medicine on Thursday when the Supreme Court questioned its move to appoint Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) through an “in-house” selection panel that was prone to nepotism and keeping good talent out.
“The problem is that every system which is confined to in-house procedure for appointments, the criticism has all along been about lack of transparency. If transparency is the hallmark of the selection process and if an existing system is criticised on this ground, why should it not be followed by you?” a bench led by Chief Justice R M Lodha said.
The bench, also comprising Justices Kurian Joseph and Rohinton F Nariman, said: “India is a country with a huge pool of talent. The public now demands transparency. Sunlight is not reaching a common man residing in one remote corner of the country like this. Why do you deprive him of the sunlight? How will an extremely talented man become visible without the sunlight?”
The court told Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi that howsoever big or small an institution be, the criticism right now seemed to be about transparency and if that is so, the government should set its own house in order.
The court was adjudicating a PIL by NGO ‘Centre for Integrity, Governance and Training in Vigilance Administration’. Questioning the selection process for the post of CVC and a Vigilance Commissioner, the NGO had sought a stay on the appointments. It cited the July 21 letter issued by the Secretary, Department of Personnel and Training, to other Secretaries in the government to recommend names for the posts. The plea stated only bureaucrats were going to be considered for the post.
Rohatgi, while assuring the court that the government will not make any appointment till the issue is decided, sought to defend the system, contending that it was not practical to make public advertisements for all such positions and that the selection was being made as per the guidelines framed three years ago.