ROLE OF CENTRAL VIGILANCE COMMISSION

INTRODUCTION

Corruption in public offices and bureaucracy has existed in India since British colonization. The problem of corruption in India is deep-rooted. The word corruption about a public office is understood as the exercise of the power and influence attached to public office for own selfish purpose. The problem must be seen as a hit to morale, values and socio-economic conditions prevalent in the society. [1] Although the abuse of public authority and powers attached is punished in IPC 1860, on March 11, 1947, there was a special law enacted to tackle the menace of corruption and abuse of power attached with public office. The Prevention of Corruption Act 1947 defined and punished the offences related to corrupt practices and bribery of public office.

Santhanam committee report

Independent India during the decades of 1950s and 1960 witnessed the unveiling of various financial scams and irregularities in public offices. In 1960, there was a committee set up under the chairmanship of Kumitithadal Santhanam, to identify the extent and areas of corrupt practices in public offices. The Santhanam Committee, while stating the Reports submitted by Bakshi Tek Chand Committee 1949 and Vivan Bose Committee 1953, recommended changes in 1947 enactment dealing with corruption. [2] In addition, there was a recommendation made to establish an administrative vigilance division under the Ministry of Home Affairs besides the vigilance units under each ministry or department respectively. The Santhanam Committee Gave its report in the year 1964 when Section IX was dedicated to the Vigilance organizations.[3]

Vineet Narain Case

In 1997, during the hearing of a PIL filed by an eminent journalist about inadequate inquiry under the Jain Hawala Scam 1991, the Supreme Court removed the Central Bureau of Investigation from the supervision of the Central Government and put it under the Central Vigilance Commission. [4]  The CBI will report to CVC on matters taken up, investigated, chart sheet filed and the progress of the cases. The CVC was responsible for maintaining transparency and accountability in the working of the CBI. The effective and efficient working of the CBI was entrusted with CVC and impartiality in the investigation was given utmost importance. The CVC will also look into the matters of granting sanctions for the prosecution of public servants and it will co-ordinate with respective departments in case of delay and refusal of sanctions to prosecute. A separate section for Annual Reports reviewing the function of CBI was ordered as an ancillary function to the supervisory function of CVC.[5] The CVC was given statutory recognition. The Commissioner to CVC was an outstanding civil servant with impeccable integrity selected on the recommendation of the committee consisting of the Prime Minister, The Minister in charge of Home Affairs and the Leader of Opposition. The president shall appoint the person recommended by the above-mentioned committee as the Commissioner. [6]

CVC Act 2003

The Central Vigilance Commission Act 2003 replaced the 1998 Ordinance and granted statutory status to the CVC. The constitution, appointment and removal of members, salaries role and functions of CVC is discussed in the Act 2003.[7]

Composition of CVC

The CVC consist of a Central Vigilance Commissioner and not more than two Vigilance Commissioner. These members are either civil servants or employees of Government-owned corporations. They have expertise in matters of banking, finance, investigation and administration.[8] These members are appointed[9] and removed by the President of India. The disqualifications to be appointed as a member of CVC are insolvency, incapacity (of body or mind), the occurrence of financial interest and conviction for the offence of moral turpitude.[10]

Roles and Functions of CVC

The CVC is the apex institution that through its supervisory functions and vigilance functions fights corruption and ensure integrity in public administration. It has jurisdiction over all members of All India Services, Group A officers of Central government; Officers of scale V rank and above in Public banks; Officers of Grade D in RBI, NABARD and SIDBI; Executives of Board and other officers of Schedule A, B, C and D of PSUs; Managers in General insurance Companies, LIC along with officers drawing a minimum salary of 8700 INR per month about service of the central government.[11]

To boot with the detection and punishments related to corruption and other malpractices, the measures to prevent the occurrence of these conducts is vital. The CVC undertake the following measure 

  • Examining the existing departmental rules to minimize or eliminate corruption
  • Identify the spots which are prone to corruption and keep an eye on these officers
  • Plan and enforce regular and surprise inspections to detect any failure of enforcing machinery
  • Maintenance of proper surveillance and detection of the officer with doubtful integrity
  • Observing the code of Conduct to maintain integrity among officers and keep an eye on officer’s
    • Annual property returns
    • Gifts accepted
    • Benami transactions
    • Close relatives’ private firms and businesses

 The CVC takes up the following steps to detect and punish the officers who are engaged in abusing power attached with public office in the following manner and ensure speedy processing in vigilance cases:

  • In case of doubt, such vigilance activity is transferred to the Secretary of that particular department from where the officer against whom such corrupt practice is alleged.
  • The statement of imputation, list of witnesses and documents relied upon are carefully prepared and attached with the Chart sheet itself when supplied to the disciplinary authority or competent court
  • The documents supporting the investigation are sorted and sent promptly to the Inquiring Officer
  • Special consideration is given to the expeditious and impartial appointment of the Enquiry Officer
  • Ensuring finality of Inquiring officer’s report and scrutinising the Disciplinary Authorities Order to check for cases of review
  • Proper assistance and providing of resources to CBI for investigation
  • Proper action taken regarding writs filed against accused officers and prompt submission of records related to an investigation
  • Adhere to time limits and prompt consultation with commissioners for vigilance matters 
  • Ensure that the disciplinary proceedings are not dilatory to justice and the time frame must be kept in mind so no officer can evade disciplinary proceedings due to retirement or misplacement of file
  • Ensure that the time for chart sheet, investigation and filing of Investigating Officers report does not exceed six months. [12]

The CVC has been responsible solely for superintendence, giving directions, causing inquiry and reviewing the progress of the investigation by the CBI. CVC, withal, advise the government and review complaints related to vigilance. The process of giving sanctions by various departments and ministries can also be reviewed by CVC and CVC provides umbrella superintendence on all divisions with various ministries, departments and organizations under the central government. [13]

CONCLUSION

The pandemic lead to a fall in total cases with CBI from 710 in 2019 to 676 in 2020 but CVC has been working quite efficiently. There were 169 convictions in corruption cases as inquired by CVC in 2020. The CVC has been involved in various awareness and advisory programs for PSUs and Banks, but the CVC Ordinance 2021 made drew attention to the fact that these independent and impartial institutions are appointed by political elites themselves making CVC’s creditability under question.

Following are some areas of concern for CVC

  • The statutory status of CVC is limited to an advisory role. The Central Government, thus, is free to reject the advice in corruption cases.
  • The CVC also face an inadequacy of resources. It is quite interesting that the entity which has to perform a variety of functions ranging from grant of sanctions, superintendence on CBI and other departmental vigilance divisions and review the progress in cases, is often understaffed.
  • The coming of Lokpal and Lokayukta in 2013 led to limiting the functions of CVC. The ambiguity in the jurisdiction has often allowed evading of various officials from investigation and prosecutions in corruption cases.
  • The nature of proceedings by CVC is civil and disciplinary. The CVC lacks the power to register complaints and take actions in criminal jurisdiction resulting in milder punishments for the offenders.
  • The CVC although called an autonomous and impartial body but appointments are indirectly by the central government itself under the veil of Committee under section 4. These might be detrimental to fair inquiry in corruption cases.
  • Though the supervision of the CBI is in hands of the CVC the absence of power to call upon records for particular matters weakens the position of the CVC. The CBI is under the administrative control of the Department of Personnel and Training which enshrine the power to appoint, remove and transfer officers with the central government.

Author(s) Name: Anukriti Mathur (Himachal Pradesh National Law University, Shimla)

References:

[1] Ministry Of Home Affairs, Report of The Committee on Prevention of Corruption (1964)  2.1 https://cvc.gov.in/sites/default/files/scr_rpt_cvc.pdf

[2] Ministry Of Home Affairs, Report of The Committee on Prevention of Corruption (1964) 2.5 https://cvc.gov.in/sites/default/files/scr_rpt_cvc.pdf

[3] Ministry Of Home Affairs, Report of The Committee on Prevention of Corruption (1964)  9.5 https://cvc.gov.in/sites/default/files/scr_rpt_cvc.pdf

[4] Vineet Narain v. Union of India,  W P (Crl) No. 340-343 of 1993   2

[5] Ibid, 34

[6] Ibid, 33

[7] CVC, ‘About Central Vigilance Commission’ <https://cvc.gov.in/?q=about/background> accessed 27 March 2022

[8] Central Vigilance Commission Act 2003, s 3

[9] Ibid, s 4

[10] Ibid, s 6

[11] CVC, ‘Jurisdiction’ < https://cvc.gov.in/?q=about-us/jurisdiction> accessed 27 March 2022

[12] CVC, ‘Functions and powers of the Central Vigilance Commission Under the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003’ < https://cvc.gov.in/?q=about-us/functions-and-powers> accessed 27 March 2022

[13] Central Vigilance Commission Act 2003, s 8

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