Assuming that the committee that selected PJ Thomas as chief vigilance commission would have included the chief justice of India (CJI) too, how would it have impacted the judicial review of the decision? The answer to this query lies in the domain of ambiguity. But there is no denying the fact that it would have added a rather complex dimension to the appointments of functionaries whose assignment requires them to measure up to the exacting moral standards.
Thomas’s appointment was quashed exactly on the ground of moral rectitude though a committee, comprising the prime minister, the home minister and the leader of the opposition, endorsed his appointment by a majority (2-1). Leader of opposition Sushma Swaraj recorded her dissent on the appointment which became the basis for judicial review and ultimately exit of Thomas.
But the situation would not have been easy if the committee had included the CJI. In this context, it appears quite amusing to see the efforts of political executives to rope in the CJI in the committees which are proposed to be formed to appoint the Lokpal and the CBI director. This is yet another instance of the political executive of ceding the ground to the judiciary and roping in the CJI in an area which exclusively in the domain of the executive.
There are reasons to believe that the government came out with this formulation to normalise relationship with the judiciary which has, of late, been questioning every executive decision. In a way, the move is an attempt to foreclose the option of judicial review by taking the highest judicial authority on board in some executive decisions.
Apparently, there does not appear anything improper in the decision on face value. But it does show the increasing vulnerability of the executive. In fact, the judicial review is a recourse often taken by litigants to correct the wrongdoings by the executive. And in the course of running an administration, there are possibilities of certain decisions not conforming to the discipline of law. If the judicial review corrects the decisions, it is cause for introspection, not worry, for the government. Instead, the government seems to be resorting to political skullduggery of co-opting the CJI in the selection of the Lokpal and the CBI director to wash its hands off from decision-making.
Is this a mechanism not exposed to shortcomings? This question can best be answered by a writ petition filed in the supreme court by Prashant Bhushan who leveled serious charges of misconduct against some former chief justices of India and ex-SC judges. There is enough evidence to prove that judges are not above board when it comes to measuring up to the exacting moral standards. By all indication, the proposed inclusion of the CJI in the selection committee of the Lokpal or the CBI director betrays signs of nervousness and abdication which characterize the functioning of this government.
Lokpal headed the CVC way
They all want CBI only to fight political battles