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Pressure building on CVC,SC asks can he be objective in 2G probe?

Central Vigilance Commissioner P J Thomas was Telecom secretary under A Raja.

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi |
December 1, 2010 2:27:00 am

Just eight days after the Supreme Court questioned Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) P J Thomas’s eligibility to function objectively as the country’s anti-corruption chief,the apex court today expressed reservations about having Thomas “supervise” the CBI investigation into the 2G spectrum allocation case.

“The CVC happened to be the Telecom Secretary at a given point of time when communications were sent to A,B,C,D. It would be quite difficult for him to be objective about supervising the investigation,” a Bench of Justice G S Singhvi and Justice A K Ganguly,which is hearing the spectrum case,remarked.

The court’s observation came immediately after Kapil Sibal’s telecom ministry urged the Supreme Court that it had “absolutely” no objection to a court-monitored investigation into the alleged scam.

The CBI also seconded the proposal of a court-monitored probe,provided the supervision is by a “statutory authority” and not any outside agency.

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“So the government is ready,the CBI is ready,the petitioner (CPIL,the NGO who sought a court-monitored probe) is praying for this,how will the court now do it?” the Bench asked.

To this,CPIL lawyer Prashant Bhushan said that the court might require “some assistance” and there were many “competent and independent officers” to do it.

But moments later,the proposal witnessed its first roadblock when the Bench mulled the idea of having the incumbent Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) to “supervise” the CBI in the probe.

The issue of the court-monitored probe was left inconclusive though the CBI sought to salvage the situation by arguing that if not the CVC,the probe could even be supervised by the vigilance commissioners,who are also statutory authorities. Vigilance Commissioner R Sreekumar’s name was also mooted as a likely candidate.

But Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium at this point downplayed the CBI’s suggestion by submitting that he would have to first take instructions.

The court’s remarks today gain significance as the CVC heads the committee which gives crucial recommendations for the appointment of the investigating agency’s Director.

This is the second Bench of the Supreme Court which has commented on Thomas’s effectiveness as the CVC.

On November 22,a three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India S H Kapadia had questioned the government whether Thomas’ inclusion as an accused in the 10-year-old chargesheet in the palmolein import case will virtually render him “non-functional”.

The court is waiting for the government’s reply to a “simple,hypothetical question” as to how Thomas intends to function effectively as CVC,riddled with questions at “every stage” about his own role as an accused in the palmolein corruption case.

Chief Justice Kapadia’s queries were based on a pending petition filed by a group of retired officials led by former Chief Election Commissioner JM Lyngdoh against the government’s choice of Thomas as CVC. The government has already handed over Thomas’s appointment file to the court for judicial scrutiny.

Lyngdoh’s petition said Thomas as then telecom secretary “has been involved in the cover-up of the 2G spectrum allocation scam which is widely regarded as India’s biggest corruption scandal having cost the exchequer Rs. 70,000 crore.”

“He (Thomas) as Telecom Secretary procured the opinion of the Joint Secretary of the Law Ministry to the effect that Central Vigilance Commission and the Comptroller & Auditor General of India (CAG) have no role in the investigation of 2G spectrum scam. The seven-page reply of the Law Ministry came on the very next day saying that since spectrum allocation is a policy matter both the CVC and CAG have no role in examining the same,” it said.

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