NEW DELHI: Sanjay Kothari, the secretary to the president, was on Saturday appointed the Central Vigilance Commissioner, according to a Rashtrapati Bhavan communique.
The post of the chief of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), the country's anti-corruption watchdog, was lying vacant since June last year after KV Chowdary completed his tenure. "At a ceremony held today at 1030 hrs at Rashtrapati Bhavan, Sanjay Kothari was sworn in as the Central Vigilance Commissioner," the communique said.
It said that 63-year-old Kothari took the oath of his office before the president. The swearing-in ceremony was attended by Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi among others.
The name of Kothari was recommended by a high-level selection panel headed by the prime minister in February.
The move was then opposed by Congress that had termed the process adopted for the appointment of the Central Vigilance Commissioner "illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional" and demanded immediate scrapping of the decision.
Kothari's appointment to the top post of the probity watchdog now may further escalate a war of words between the ruling party and opposition Congress.
Reacting on his appointment, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari had in February demanded initiation of a fresh process for appointing the Central Vigilance Commissioner by inviting applications again.
"What we demand is that the entire process needs to be scrapped in its entirety, a de-novo process needs to be instituted, a fresh search committee needs to be constituted which is not conflicted. Applications need to be invited afresh," he had said.
Without naming anyone, Tewari had said that a man who is not an applicant and whose candidature was not considered by the search committee beyond the applicants and who is not shortlisted is cleared for appointment as next Central Vigilance Commissioner.
He had also pointed out that one of the applicants and shortlisted persons by the search committee was a members of the panel. Kothari, a 1978-batch IAS officer of Haryana cadre, retired in June 2016 as secretary, the Department of Personnel and Training.
He was in November 2016 appointed the chief of the government's head-hunter -- the Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB). Kothari was in July 2017 named as the secretary to President Ram Nath Kovind.
The Central Vigilance Commissioner is appointed by the president on the recommendation of the selection committee consisting of the prime minister as its chairperson, and the home minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha as its members.
The tenure of CVC chief is of four years or till the incumbent attains the age of 65 years. Kothari will have tenure till late June next year. The CVC can have a Central Vigilance Commissioner and two Vigilance Commissioners.
At present, Vigilance Commissioner Sharad Kumar is working as the interim Central Vigilance Commissioner. After Kothari's appointment, there is still a vacancy of a Vigilance Commissioner in the commission.
Meanwhile, the central government had on Monday appointed Kapil Dev Tripathi the secretary to the president. Tripathi, a 1980 batch IAS (retired) officer of Assam-Meghalaya cadre, is the PESB chairman.