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Moily seat turns too hot

New Delhi, Jan. 28: The Centre is deeply disturbed about the work of its legal department over the past few months and Congress functionaries feel the party should not have run the risk of giving a fresh lease of life to law minister M. Veerappa Moily in the recent shuffle.

Much of the embarrassment faced by the government is being traced to the legal department and there is little doubt that changes will take place here in the near future, sources said.

Congress leaders are speaking with a remarkable degree of certainty that the chances of Moily’s survival in the May shuffle are remote.

They, however, deny any move to force central vigilance commissioner P.J. Thomas out at this stage. A case against the appointment of Thomas, who faces charges of corruption in a palm oil import deal 20 years ago, as the chief anti-corruption watchdog is on in the Supreme Court.

The positions taken by the government’s law officers and media interpretation of the legal proceedings have landed the government in embarrassing situations more than once.

“What is Thomas’s fault?” a leader asked, recalling that the government appointed him despite a note of dissent from the leader of Opposition.

“The matter is in the Supreme Court and we should wait for the outcome instead of giving a running commentary on legal proceedings,” he said, contesting reports that the government had asked Thomas to quit.

Asked whether the government was struggling to get rid of the CVC and even exploring the option of impeachment, a senior cabinet minister said: “This is absolutely untrue. We have mounted no pressure on the CVC so far. This is not the time to take such decisions. Let the court study the matter and give its judgment.”

Other sources claimed that Thomas, who is determined to fight the charges against him in the court, was also not contemplating to quit. He has already filed an affidavit in the court claiming “high personal integrity”.

The sources said that relinquishing the post under pressure would mean he was conceding guilt. He feels that his best option is to fight back and the government has allowed him to do just that. Congress leaders felt that it was ridiculous to presume that the government that appointed him a few months ago brushing aside the Opposition’s reservations would now impeach the CVC or make a presidential reference for his removal.

However, some Congress leaders do feel that Thomas should on his own provide relief to the embattled government by stepping aside.

Asked about the continous embarrassment in the court, one senior leader said: “We don’t know what actually happened in the court. There has never been the tradition of giving running commentary on every remark and reply given in the court. But we certainly wish the government’s law officers handle this situation with care.”

Asked if the government was happy with Moily, he said: “Neither the Prime Minister, nor the Congress president is impressed with his track record. But tough decisions are taken only at the right time.”

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