New Delhi, Jan 31 (PTI) The Selection Committee meetingto chose Central Vigilance Commissioner in September last yeardid discuss the issue of Palmolein case against P J Thomas,Home Minister P Chidambaram said today but parried a questionwhether a "chargesheeted" person should have been appointed.
Addressing a press conference, he was happy to agree withthe Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj that theCommittee discussed the issue of a pending case against Thomasbefore he was named the CVC.
"We did discuss the names of the panel. In fact, the bulkof the time (of discussion) was regarding P J Thomas andPalmolein case. She (Swaraj) made her points, the othermembers (PM and HM) of the Committee made their points.
"It was brought to the notice of the Committee during thediscussion that although the case was registered, no sanctionof prosecution was granted by the NDA government from December1999 to May, 2004 and by the UPA government subsequently,"Chidambaram said.
When the trial of the case was stayed by the SupremeCourt between 2007 and 2008, the Central Vigilance Commissionhad held that no case was made against Thomas and JijiThompson, another IAS official. Then Thomas was grantedvigilance clearance (for appointment as Secretary in theGovernment), he said.
"There could not have been a discussion for severalminutes without bringing these facts before the Committee.
There could not have been a disagreement without adiscussion," the Home Minister said.
Citing a statement of the Attorney General that when theapex court had put a specific question whether papers andfiles relating to the case against Thomas were "circulated"during the meeting on September three, the AG had said "I hadsaid the papers and files were not circulated."
"It was never stated (by the AG) that there was nodiscussion on the case against Thomas," Chidambaram saidquoting the Attorney General.
"I am happy to agree with the Leader of Opposition thatthe matter was discussed," the Minister said.
When a questioner asked how the government could haveappointed a "corrupt" man facing a chargesheet to the post ofCVC, he shot back saying "I respect your right to hold a pointof view similarly you should also respect our point of view.
The matter is actively subjudice." .
Chidambaram prefaced his reply to the question on Thomas saying he was "reluctant" to answer it because the matter waspending before the Supreme Court.
"I am very reluctant to answer the question not becausethe question is wrong or I have no answer but because I wastaught and trained to respect the rule of sub judice.
"I am horrified that cases that are being actively heardby the courts of law are being discussed widely by politicalleaders and media. I am disappointed that the courts are notpulling up people. I am answering (this question) reluctantlyand with a great sense of disappointment," Chidambaram said.
Last week during a Supreme Court hearing, the AG''sstatement that the material relating to Thomas'' case was notplaced before the three-member Selection Committee headed bythe Prime Minister had created a controversy.
Swaraj had said the government was lying in the apexcourt and that she would file an affidavit explaining herdissent about Thomas in view of the case against him.