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Chidambaram, Sushma in a verbal duel on CVC

New Delhi: Home Minister P Chidambaram and BJP leader Sushma Swaraj were today locked in a verbal duel with the minister rejecting her claim that he had told the selection panel that CVC P J Thomas was acquitted of charges in a corruption case.

Reacting to Swaraj`s statement that he had misled the three-member selection committee including them and the Prime Minister, Chidambaram issued a strong statement saying actually she is "tying herself in knots" by making "thoughtless allegations".

"I take exception to the statement by Sushma Swaraj…

that I had `misled the selection committee` and told the committee that Thomas had been `acquitted`.

"Firstly, if no sanction for prosecution had been granted since 1999 against P J Thomas (as admitted by her) how could the case have proceeded to trial or ended in an acquittal of Thomas? Secondly, if the Supreme Court had stayed the trial of the case (as admitted by her), is it not self-evident that the case was pending and nobody could have been either acquitted or convicted?" he said.

The Home Minister said, "I reiterate that the committee was aware of the palmolein case; that no sanction for prosecution of Thomas had been granted since 1999; that the case was pending in the trial court; that the Supreme Court had stayed the trial of the case; and that the then CVC had granted vigilance clearance in respect of Thomas."

Issuing the rejoinder "once again most reluctantly", Chidambaram requested Swaraj to respect the rule of sub-judice and allow the Supreme Court to decide the case.

Responding to his statement, Swaraj termed as an "after thought" the minister`s statement that he had not misled the CVC selection panel and his contention that she was making "thoughtless allegations".

"I have seen that (Chidambaram`s) statement. I have to only say that if he knew the case was pending it was the primary duty of the government to apprise the selection committee of that. They did not do that," she told reporters.

"All that he is saying are after thought… These facts are absolutely irrelevant," she added.

Swaraj said "The first thing which he committed was that he concealed this information from the selection committee. It was I who brought this to the committee that there was a case and then he (Chidambaram) said he (P J Thomas) was acquitted."

Last week, after Attorney General G E Vahanvati told the Supreme Court that material about Thomas facing a chargesheet in the Palmolein case was not not placed before the selection committee.

Swaraj called it a "lie" and she had raised the issue and the committee discussed it.

But Chidambaram confirmed that the matter was discussed in the committee after which Swaraj said she would not not go ahead with her plans to file an affidavit in the Supreme Court to convey to it that the issue of case pending against Thomas was discussed by the committee.

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