|Web of deceit|
|Saturday, 29 January 2011 00:00|
Even by the government’s extraordinary obfuscation on the 2G/CVC scandal, its behaviour in the Supreme Court on Thursday was a new low. The government’s arguments to justify the appointment of PJ Thomas as the Central Vigilance Commissioner, so far, have ranged from impeccable-integrity-cannot-be-a-criterion to it’s-the-government’s-prerogative-to-appoint-officials. When that didn’t wash with the Court, the government tried a new one on Thursday, that the committee which appointed Thomas (comprising the Prime Minister, the home minister and the leader of the Opposition) was not aware of the charges against him in the palmolein import case in Kerala when he was the state’s Chief Secretary. This is truly extraordinary. For one, Sushma Swaraj, the leader of the Opposition, made it clear in the meeting that she was opposing Thomas for the job on this count—so even if the Prime Minister and the home minister were genuinely ignorant about this, it was brought to their attention by Swaraj and they chose to overrule her, even after she gave her dissent in writing. Two, if such important appointments are being made without all facts being made available to the decision makers, this is an even more serious indictment—did Thomas’s CV mention that he had been telecom secretary under A Raja and that he sought to scuttle the CAG probe by saying the CAG had no right to question ‘government policy’?
Given what this episode says about the government’s ability to go to any extent to brazen its way out of a problem, the Court needs to take a view on this—this is not the first time the government has twisted facts and given contradictory information to the Court on the 2G/CVC scandal. In response to the Court asking why A Raja said he’d accept applications till October 1, 2007, and then only processed those received till September 25, 2007, para 88 of the government affidavit said “there was no preponement of any cut-off date. It was rather a case of batch-wise processing of applications … no application was rejected ...” And yet, in para 83, it said it didn’t have enough spectrum for all applicants so “it was not even theoretically possible to accommodate all the applicants”. Which para is the Court to take seriously? Para 92 says no advice was given by the law ministry while para 86 says “the press release was issued after obtaining legal advice”! It should be interesting to see how the government deals with the Court’s remarks on what it said on Thursday, given how it has pretty much exhausted all excuses ranging from integrity being irrelevant to appointments not being in the Court’s purview.