The Supreme Court (SC) has set aside the appointment of Central Vigilance Commissioner Mr PJ Thomas. The SC decision was overdue. Indeed, it was too long overdue. The court ordered the removal of the CVC because in its view he shared responsibility for the occurrence of corruption in the earlier case that was pending against him in a Kerala court. But what if Mr Thomas had been blameless in the earlier case?
Should he not have been removed even then because neither could his functioning as the CVC have credibility while a court case was pending against him, and nor would the pending court being heard against him have credibility when it involved a verdict on a functioning CVC? The SC should have ordered the dismissal of the CVC as soon as the matter was put before it. That is what the norms of a credible democracy demanded.
The norms of a credible democracy demand much more after the SC verdict. The CVC approved the appointment of the current head of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Should not that appointment be canceled until it is approved afresh by the new CVC? Furthermore, what punishment might be administered to the cabinet that approved the appointment of the CVC despite a court case pending against him? At best the SC can pass strictures against the government for its error.
The CVC occupies a Constitutional post. The President of India appoints the CVC. The CVC is accountable to the President of India. Surely the President who is maintained in office under considerable cost to the tax payer, and who is under solemn oath to “preserve and protect” the Constitution and Law, should not be considered a mindless zombie to quietly allow the Cabinet to make a palpably wrong appointment to a Constitutional post? Law Minister Moily after the SC judgment has opined that the system needs to be examined for rectification. Indeed it does. For a start a reappraisal with an open mind of the President’s role should be undertaken.
The norms of a credible democracy would demand of course the resignation of the government by accepting responsibility for its questionable and possibly motivated decision to appoint a CVC not qualified to occupy the post. If the norms of a credible democracy had obtained in Indian politics this government should have resigned long ago. Now it depends only on the Indian electorate to ensure in the next general election that the norms of a credible democracy do matter in India.