The Watchdog of Corruption: Central Vigilance Commission

THE WATCHDOG OF CORRUPTION: CENTRAL VIGILANCE COMMISSION

Introduction & historical backdrop

The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) is the apex vigilant authority to prevent corruption in the Central government. The term ‘Vigilance’ means to ensure clean and prompt administrative action towards achieving efficiency and effectiveness of the employees in particular and the organization in general, as lack of Vigilance leans to waste, losses, and economic decline.

The present CVC is the result of the long historical background which could be traced from the world-war II, in 1941, when the central government established the Special Police Establishment (SPE) to investigate the cases of bribery and corruption regarding the transactions in the war and supply department of India. Even after this, the central government felt the need to increase the spectrum of the establishment for the investigation in various wings of government of India therefore subsequently the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act in 1946. After the acquaintance of the act to the general public, the superintendent of SPE was transferred to Home Department, and its functions were enlarged to cover all the government departments, Union Territories, and to states with the consent of state government. By the year 1963, SPE was authorized to investigate the offences under 91 different sections of Indian Penal Code, 16 other central acts besides offences under Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947.

In 1963, a growing need was felt in other fields for the investigation by central police agency. Therefore on the recommendation of Santhanam Committee on Prevention of Corruption in 1963, Central Bureau of Investigation was established and in the next year itself i.e. in 1964, Central Vigilance Commission was established for vigilance, advise and to guide the central government, by an executive resolution of the Ministry of Home Affairs which was later transferred to Ministry of Personnel.[1] In 1997, in the matter of Vineet Narain and Ors. V. U.O.I.[2], aka Hawala Scandal, the Hon’ble Supreme Court criticized the CBI and directed that CVC should be given a superior role over CBI.[3]

Thus, originally the CVC was neither a constitutional body nor a statutory body but in 2003, the Parliament enacted the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003 conferring statutory status on the CVC[4] forming it a multi-member body.

In 2003,the same year in which the act into force, the Apex Court in a writ filed after the death of Shri Satyendra Dubey directed that an administrative machinery shall be established for acting on whistleblowers complaints till a law is enacted. In execution of the direction, central government notified the Public Interest Disclosure and Protection of Informers Resolution, 2004 (PIDP)

popularly known as ‘whistleblowers resolution’ promising not to disclose the identity of the whistle blower or the informer and to act on such complaints. The significant feature to note here is that this is the sole commission which is empowered to initiate action against frivolous or vexatious complaint makers.[5] Later on, The Public Interest Disclosure for Protection to Person Making the Disclosure Bill, 2010 was renamed as The Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2014. In 2013, parliament enacted The Lokpal and Lokayukt Act which also amended CVC Act empowering it to conduct preliminary enquiry and to investigate into complaints referred by Lokpal.

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COMPOSITION OF THE COMMISSION

The CVC is a multi-member body consisting of a Central Vigilance Commissioner (chair- person) and not more than two vigilance commissioners. They are appointed by the president by warrant under his hand and seal on the recommendation of a three-member committee consisting of the prime minister as its head, the Union minister of home affairs and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok-Sabha.[6] They hold office for a term of four years or until they attain the age of sixty five years, whichever is earlier.[7] After their tenure, they are not eligible for further employment under the Central or a state government thus the restriction on further appointment has a bonafide impact on the conduct of the officers of the commission and they are not attracted towards doing of any such act which would be beneficial for the ruling government. The president can remove the Central Vigilance Commissioner or any vigilance commissioner from the office under the following circumstances:

  1. If he is adjudged an insolvent; or
  2. If he has been convicted of an offence which in the opinion of the Central government involves a moral turpitude, or
  3. If during his term of office he engages, in any paid employment outside the duties of his office; or
  4. If he is in the opinion of the president, unfit to continue in office by reason of infirmity of mind or body; or
  5. If he has acquired such financial or other interest which is likely to affect prejudicially his official functions.

In addition to these, the president can also remove the Central Vigilance Commissioner or any vigilance commissioner on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity. However, in these cases, the president has to refer the matter to the Supreme Court for an enquiry. If the Supreme Court, after the enquiry, upholds the cause of removal and advises so, then the president can remove him.

He is deemed to be guilty of misbehavior, if he-

  • is concerned or interested in any contract or agreement made by the Central government, or
  • Participate in any way in the profit of such contract or agreement or in any benefit or emolument arising therefrom otherwise than as a member and in common with the other members of an incorporated company.[8]

The salary, allowances and other conditions of service of the Central Vigilance Commissioner are similar to those of the Chairman of UPSC and that of the vigilance commissioner are similar to those of a member of UPSC. But they cannot be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.[9]

FUNCTIONS OF CVC[10]:

Some of the major functions of Central Vigilance Commission are as following:

  1. To inquire or cause an inquiry or investigation on a reference made by the Central government wherein it is alleged that a public servant, an employee of the Central government or its authorities, has committed an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
  2. To inquire or cause an inquiry or investigation to be conducted into any complaint against any official belonging to the below mentioned category of officials wherein it is alleged that he has committed an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988:
  • Members of all-India services serving in the Union and Group ‘A’ officers of the Central government; &
  • Specified level of officers of the authorities of the Central government.
  1. To give directions &exercise superintendence over the functioning of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (CBI) related to the offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
  2. To review the progress of investigations & pend ing application, conducted by the Delhi Special Police Establishment into offences alleged to have been committed under the prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
  3. To tender advice & exercise superintendence over the vigilance administration in the ministries of the Central government and its authorities on such matters as are referred to it by them.
  4. To undertake or cause an inquiry into complaints received under the PIDIP Resolution and recommend appropriate action.
  5. The Central Government is required to consult the CVC in making rules and regulations governing the vigilance and disciplinary matters relating to the members of Central Services and all India Services.
  6. The Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) is the Chairperson and the two Vigilance Commissioners along with Secretaries of M/o Home Affairs, D/o Personnel and Training and the D/o Revenue in M/o Finance are the Members of the Selection Committees, on whose recommendation the Central Government appoints the Director of Enforcement. Further, this Committee, in consultation with the Director of Enforcement, recommends officers for appointments to the posts above the level of Deputy Director of Enforcement.
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JURISDICTION

The jurisdiction of the CVC extends to the following:

  1. Members of All India Services serving in connection with the affairs of the Union and Group A officers of the Central Government.
  2. Officers of the rank of Scale V and above in the Public Sector Banks.
  3. Officers in Grade D and above in Reserve Bank of India, NABARD and SIDBI.
  4. Chief Executives and Executives on the Board and other officers of E-8 and above in Schedule ‘A’ and B’ Public Sector Undertakings.
  5. Chief Executives and Executives on the Board and other officers of E-7 and above in Schedule ‘C’ and ‘D’ Public Sector Undertakings.
  6. Managers and above in General Insurance Companies.
  7. Senior Divisional Managers and above in Life Insurance Corporation.
  8. Officers drawing salary of Rs 8700/- per month (pre-revised) and above on Central Government D.A. pattern, as may be revised from time to time, in societies & local authorities owned or controlled by the Central Government.

ORGANISATIONS UNDER THE CVC:

The CVC has its own Secretariat, Chief Technical Examiners’ Wing (CTE) and a wing of Commissioners for Departmental Inquiries (CDIs).

  1. Secretariat The Secretariat consists of a Secretary, Joint Secretaries, Deputy Secretaries, Under Secretaries, and office staff.
  2. Chief Technical Examiners’ Wing: It consists of Chief Engineers (designated as Chief Technical Examiners) and supporting engineering staff. The main functions assigned to this organization are as follows:
  • Technical audit of construction works of Government organisations from a vigilance angle
  • Investigation of specific cases of complaints relating to construction works
  • Extension of assistance to CBI in their investigations involving technical matters and for evaluation of properties in Delhi.
  • Tendering of advice or assistance to the CVC and CVO in vigilance cases involving technical matters.
  1. Commissioners for Departmental Inquiries: The CDIs function as Inquiry Officers to conduct oral inquiries in departmental proceedings initiated against public servants.
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WORKING:

The CVC conducts its proceedings at its headquarters (New Delhi). It is vested with the power to regulate its own procedure. It has all the powers of a civil court and its proceedings have a judicial character. It may call for information or report from the Central government or its authorities so as to enable it to exercise general supervision over the vigilance and anti-corruption work in them.

The CVC, on receipt of the report of the inquiry undertaken by any agency, advises the Central government or its authorities as to the further course of action. The Central government or its authorities shall consider the advice of the CVC and take appropriate action. However, where the Central government or any of its authorities does not agree with the advice of the CVC, it shall communicate the reasons (to be recorded in writing) to the CVC. The CVC has to present annually to the President a report on its performance. The President places this report before each House of Parliament.

UNITS IN THE MINISTRIES

All ministries/departments in the Union Government have a Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) who heads the Vigilance Division of the organisation concerned, assisting and advising the Secretary or Head of Office in all matters pertaining to vigilance. He also provides a link between his organisation and the Central Vigilance Commission on the one hand and his organisation and the Central Bureau of Investigation on the other. Vigilance functions performed by the CVO include

  1. Collecting intelligence about corrupt practices of the employees of his organisation
  2. Investigating verifiable allegations reported to him
  3. Processing investigation reports for further consideration of the disciplinary authority concerned
  4. Referring matters to the Central Vigilance Commission for advice wherever necessary.[11]

CONCLUSION

The CVC is a significant non-constitutional body pioneered towards disposing of the matters expeditiously as cases relating to corruption department have an adverse impact of the image of such government in the eyes of the public. Thus it is focused on timely examination of complaints within a reasonable time frame and to take the necessary action as per the concerned matter.[12] The vigilance commission has also asked the government from refraining to act on anonymous complaints for enhanced disposal of pending matters.[13]

[1] The Committee on Prevention of Corruption with parliamentarian K.Santhanam as the Chairman, four other MPs and two senior officers, as members, was appointed by the GOI in 1962

[2]1 SCC 226

[3] Annual report 2019, page no.51

[4] The CVC bill having been passed by both the Houses of Parliament received the assent of the president on 11 September 2003.

[5]Annual Report 2015-16, Ministry of Personnel, GOI, p.101.

[6] SECTION 4 of the CVC Act, 2003

[7] Section 5 of the CVC Act, 2003

[8] Section 6 of CVC Act,2003

[9] Subsection 7 of section 5 of CVC Act, 2003.

[10] Section 8 of CVC Act, 2003.

[11] Report on Ethics in Governance, January 2007, second administrative Reforms Commission, GOI, p. 106.

[12]https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/majority-of-corruption-complaints-not-being-examined-timely-by-govt-departments-cvc/articleshow/77545524.cms

[13]https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/do-not-act-on-anonymous-corruption-complaints-cvc-warns-govt-departments/articleshow/78348726.cms

Author: Hema Chaudhary,
Student at Faculty of Law, University of Lucknow

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