India, Original Articles

When Integrity comes with “strings attached”

At a  courtroom the accused is sentenced by a Judge who is charge sheeted i.e. his/her name figures in a criminal case that is still pending. Is it justified that that the judgement passed is valid under law. Can the judge possibly pass a judgement unless he/she is exonerated of all charges?

That is precisely the argument that the Supreme Court of India is making against the appointment of Polayil Joseph Thomas as the Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC), a post that makes Thomas the head of the Central Vigilance Commission, India’s premier statutory body that was set up to advice and guide Central Government agencies in the field of vigilance.

The appointment is the latest embarrassment to the UPA government that is already tainted by massive scams and dubious leaks. The skeletons that tumble out of the closet, talk about the story of PJ Thomas, a veteran in the Indian Parliamentary system who has held posts ranging from the Electoral Officer at the State Election Commission to the more controversial Secretary of the Department of Telecommunications, Ministry of Communications & I.T. comes to light. Thomas, in his various stints is accused of sending letters to the law ministry seeking to restrict the role of CAG and CVC in the 2G allocation and attempting to shield and promote tainted officers with CBI charges against them. He is still charge sheeted in the palmolein scam that allowed the import of palmolein from Malaysia at unjustifiable rates that lead to a huge loss to the exchequer.

All the cases and controversies show a different man, a pliant and malleable face who has been appointed to cover up and mitigate the government’s embarrassment in the CWG and 2G scams.

The saddest part is the mockery of a man heading the department that has charge sheeted him for a criminal offence, now having the power to involve, direct and stop any investigation including the appointment of the CBI director. The amusing thing is the government’s baffling reply to the Supreme Court’s objection against the appointment. The asinine argument is best captured in a single statement that the Attorney General of India, G.E Vahanvati so eloquently put to the Supreme Court while defending the appointment, “Integrity for CVC’s post not mandatory.”

I digress. To me, it is. For, the appointment is a classic example of a flawed Indian democracy functioning on its ironies and not its jurisprudence.