Make no mistake. The egg is on government's face as it can't even sack him
Prasanna Mohanty | January 28, 2011
Embattled central vigilance commissioner P J Thomas side-stepped questions on his continuance in office in the wake of a corruption case against him and remained characteristically defiant.
"I am still the CVC. The matter is in court. So no comments," Thomas told reporters on Monday. This, after the media had been running stories for much of the past week that Thomas had just "24 hours" / "48 hours" left in his post.
The egg is clearly on government's face as it is not even able to sack Thomas.
It should surprise no one that the government is making inane submissions and trying to fib its way through the apex court in the matter relating to Thomas' appointment as the central vigilance commissioner (CVC).
Days before telling the court that the selection panel had no information about the pending criminal case against Thomas (a lie which has been nailed by Sushma Swaraj, leader of the opposition and a member of the selection panel), the government had not only strongly defended him, it had, in fact, rebuffed the court saying that it was “outside the purview of the supreme court” to even question his suitability and integrity.
So, what makes the government behave the way it does? The only logical explanation is that having committed a blunder, it now finds no room to wriggle out. To sack him is no option and let's see why it is so.
The CVC Act of 2003 provides detailed grounds on which Thomas or a fellow vigilance commissioner can be removed from office. Section 6 of the Act says this can be done “only by order of the president on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity after the supreme court, on a reference made to it by the president, has, on inquiry, reported that the central vigilance commissioner or any vigilance commissioner, as the case may be, ought on such ground be removed”.
The trouble is having hardly attended office, Thomas has done little to attract charges of “proved misbehaviour or incapacity”. And since the process involves the supreme court, which will have to inquire and confirm the charges before recommending such removal, he has nothing to fear.
The other grounds on which Thomas can be removed are: If he “is adjudged an insolvent”, convicted of “moral turpitude”, engages in any “paid employment outside the duties of his office”, suffers from “infirmity of mind or body” and has acquired financial or other interest that is likely to “affect prejudicially his functions”. There is nothing on record to warrant any of these charges either.
What can the government do other than circulating rumours about Thomas quitting on his own in the “next 48 hours”? Precious little. Thomas knows this and is therefore, keeping his counsel. He also knows that he would find no other employment with the government or in any public sector enterprise once he quits. So why quit!
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