New Delhi: Virtually blaming former MoS (Personnel) Prithviraj Chavan for
the fiasco involving appointment of P J Thomas as CVC, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday said the note forwarded to him for the selection committee did not have information about corruption case against Thomas.

The PM, however, owned "accountability" and responsibility for the "error of judgement" in appointment of Thomas which has since been struck down by the Supreme Court.

Speaking in the Rajya Sabha, Prime Minister said that he was not aware of a charge sheet against Thomas till the meeting of selection committee on September 3 last year.

He said to have given his approval as he believed vigilance clearance would have been obtained as Thomas had earlier served as Kerala Chief Secretary and Secretary in the Central government.

Responding to clarifications sought by Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley and Left members after his suo motu statement, Singh said, "Until I went to the meeting of the committee, I was not aware there was any such case of Palmolein and that would involve corruption."

He said he became "aware of this case only when the honourable Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha (Sushma Swaraj) raised the issue in the meeting itself."

Pointing out that the notes for such committees are prepared "under the guidance of Minister of State in-charge of the DoPT", he said, "The honest answer is that the note which was prepared by the DoPT ... did not contain this information about charge sheet."

Chavan, who is now Maharashtra Chief Minister, was the MoS in-charge of DoPT at the time of Thomas' selection by the committee headed by the Prime Minister and comprising the Home Minister and Leader of the Opposition.

Explaining why he still gave his approval to Thomas' name, Singh said, "since the gentleman was appointed Chief Secretary, Government of Kerala and that he was appointed as Secretary to two departments of the government of India, I thought vigilance matters must have been looked into and therefore we went ahead with the selection process."

Singh, who made such a statement on the CVC fiasco in the Lok Sabha yesterday, reiterated that the selection was an "error of judgement" and he took full responsibility for it.

BJP cautions Govt

While seeking clarifications on his statement, Jaitley said while the Prime Minister was "gracious enough" to accept responsibility and accountability, whoever was "responsible" for pushing Thomas' case must be held accountable.

"What does the Prime Minister propose to do in this regard," Jaitley asked.

He also asked whether the government would keep in mind for future the Supreme Court's observation that the integrity of the institutions should be enhanced.

Jaitley said when the LoP in the Lok Sabha had pointed out in the High Powered Committee that CVC's appointment be postponed, "why did the government come with pre-conceived" idea that "Thomas and only Thomas alone" was to be selected.

Why two other candidates with relatively cleaner image were overlooked in favour of one who has been chargesheeted, he asked.

He also wanted to know from Singh whether the Prime Minister or the Committee was informed about the pendency of charge sheet against one of the candidates. "Who was responsible," he asked. "Was it the DoPT, PMO or someone else," Jaitley sought to know.

Speaking to reporters in Parliament complex, BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "We had asked the Prime Minister to introspect on the CVC issue.... He has accepted that it was an error of judgement. He has also said his Minister of State had not presented all the facts."

Asked if the main opposition wanted that those responsible should be brought to book, Prasad said, "We have already said that accountability should be fixed. He (PM) has accepted his accountability."

Another party spokesperson Tarun Vijay described Singh's statement in Parliament as "pathetic and naive".

He insisted that the Prime Minister accepting that he was not aware of all the facts does not absolve him of his "fault".

Left assault on PM

Similarly, seeking reasons for overlooking objection to appointment of Thomas, CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury asked "was there any pressure on the government?" If it was so, the House should be told so that it can be faced collectively. These
issues must be answered publicly, he said.

Asking the Prime Minister to come "cleaner" on the issue, D Raja (CPI) asked whether Singh was "under some compulsion. PM must come out with more details" and explain how he was "forced".
Raja said during the entire controversy, whenever confronted by media, Home Minister P Chidambaram kept telling them, "Go and ask DoPT".

Meanwhile, CPM leader Brinda Karat also expressed dissatisfaction at the statement made by Singh.

"The Minister of State who did not present all the facts has been promoted as Chief Minister.... Where is the morality, accountability and responsibility on this issue?"
Karat said.

Asked what action should be taken, she said it is now for UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Singh to take a call on this issue.

(JPN/Agencies)