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Supreme Court on CVC Selection – Kartikeya Tanna deconstructs

Sajib Nandi

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Sajib Nandi

Published by Niticentral.com on Dec 22, 2014

Supreme Court on CVC Selection - Kartikeya Tanna deconstructs



Last week, in a petition filed by the Centre for Integrity, Governance and Training in Vigilance Administration, the Supreme Court issued an order stating that before any appointments are made for the post of Central Vigilance Commissioner or other vigilance commissioners, the leave of the Court would have to be taken. Here is the link to the order.


The Centre for Integrity, Governance and Training in Vigilance Administration filed a PIL alleging that the Central government was going ahead with the appointment of CVC and VC without giving wide publicity to vacancies arising on completion of tenure of previous CVC and VC. The PIL alluded to the fact that the Central government was restricting names for the posts to the recommendations of the bureaucracy.


In order to ensure that due procedure is followed in appointment of CVC and VC, i.e., that wide publicity was given to vacancies arising from CVC’s appointment and that applications was, therefore, not confined only to bureaucrats, Supreme Court ordered the Central government to “take the leave of the Court” before forwarding the names to the President for making appointments.


In a sense, therefore, this adds another step in the appointment process duly established by an Act of Parliament. Section 4 of the CVC Act 2003 stipulates that a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, Home Minister and Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha recommend names finalised for the post of CVC and VCs which are then given the final seal of approval by the President.


Notably, in the situation that there is no Leader of Opposition (as is the case in this term), the leader of the single largest opposition party is a member of such a committee. Therefore, there can never be a situation where a member of the political opposition is not a part of the deliberations and discussions of the committee.


If the two members of the ruling government on the committee – the PM and Home Minister – try to force their favourites to the posts, the third member has the option of making his dissent known through several channels. For example, when the PM and Home Minister in UPA tried to force through Mr. PJ Thomas as CVC, the then LoP in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj objected to his appointment which was eventually held illegal by the Supreme Court.


However, it seems that the Supreme Court isn’t worried about who is chosen, but on how people are chosen. In other words, Supreme Court is worried about whether the due procedure is followed, i.e., whether wide publicity is given and appointment is not restricted solely to bureaucrats. ThisIndian Express report confirms this. In other words, in order to address its concern about a lack of transparency in the procedure, Supreme Court has insisted that, before sending the recommendations to the President, it be submitted those names.


One wonders, however, what real purpose this “vetting” serves to ensure that due procedure is followed. The committee consists of one member who will always be from the political opposition. That itself is a ‘check and balance’ of sorts to ensure due procedure. Moreover, it can also be insisted that minutes of the meeting of this committee be made available either through the website or through an RTI.


By merely receiving the list of names finalised by the committee for forwarding to the President, how, one wonders, would Supreme Court assure itself of transparency and adherence to due procedure? If the Committee selects Mr. X as CVC and informs Supreme Court in a sealed cover that Mr. X is finalised, how would that fact per se satisfy the Supreme Court of transparency and due procedure?


Or, is it the case that Supreme Court would automatically assume that there is no due procedure if people finalised for appointment are from the bureaucracy? Would Supreme Court ask the Central government why the names finalised do not include people from other walks of life? And if so, wouldn’t that amount to pondering over who is finalised which isn’t what the Supreme Court intends?


It frankly seems as if Supreme Court has made itself step into a process which is very well-defined by a duly enacted law. If the appointment of a CVC or a VC is questionable, it can, indeed, be challenged. But for the Supreme Court to insist that it will vet names finalised before they are sent to the President is not only outside the bounds of the law, but serves no real purpose other than second-guessing the committee’ decision.

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