In a season of corruption charges that have shackled India’s ruling Congress party’s political ambitions, the ongoing saga of the country’s tainted anti-corruption chief is perhaps the hardest to believe.
The curious case of P.J. Thomas, the accused fraudster appointed to head India’s corruption investigation agency by the Prime Minister last October, took another twist on Monday to further undermine Manmohan Singh’s party’s ability to tackle graft that threatens to become the overriding legacy of its current term.
In a fillip for the already emboldened opposition, Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said on Monday that the three-man selection committee headed by the Prime Minister that appointed Thomas to the role of Chief Vigilance Commissioner was aware of the pending fraud case against him – but made the appointment regardless.
“We did discuss the names of the panel. In fact, the bulk of the time (of discussion) was regarding P.J. Thomas and the Palmolein case,” Chidambaram told reporters on Monday.
Chidambaram’s statement comes just days after G.E. Vahanvati, the country’s Attorney General, testified to the Supreme Court that the selection panel was not made aware of the charges relating to a 1991 fraud case surrounding the import of edible oils when Thomas was a minister in a state government during the appointment discussions.