This article is written by Mehak Vardhan studying BBA LLB currently in NMIMS Kirti P. Mehta School of Law
The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) plays a crucial role in monitoring and providing guidance on vigilance efforts within the Indian government. It was founded in 1964 and was granted legal recognition in 2003, granting it independence and impartiality in its operations. This piece discusses the CVC’s scope, responsibilities, obstacles, and disputes, underscoring its significant contribution to upholding honesty and openness in government affairs.
Keywords– Central Vigilance Commission Act 2003, Vigilance, anti-corruption, Prevention of Corruption Act 1988, Chief Vigilance Officer, Transparency
The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) serves as the ultimate authority in the domain of vigilance, free from external influence by any executive entity. Its primary role is to supervise and oversee all vigilance-related activities within the scope of the Central Government. Furthermore, the CVC provides advisory support to various authorities within Central Government bodies, aiding them in the planning, execution, assessment, and improvement of their vigilance initiatives. In this context, vigilance is fundamentally about ensuring clean and timely administrative actions that promote efficiency and productivity among employees, ultimately benefiting the entire organization. On the contrary, the absence of vigilance can result in inefficiencies, losses, and a decline in economic well-being.
This legislation creates the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and grants it the authority to probe or initiate investigations into alleged violations of the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1988. These violations are associated with particular groups of public servants employed by the Central Government, entities established under Central Acts, government-run companies, organizations, and local bodies owned or supervised by the Central Government. The Act also addresses associated and supplementary issues. It was passed by the Indian Parliament.
The Evolution of the Central Vigilance Commission
The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has a noteworthy history that can be traced back to its beginnings. The CVC was established in February 1964, following the recommendations of the Committee on Prevention of Corruption, led by Shri K. Santhanam. In 2003, the CVC was granted legal recognition by the Indian Parliament through the passage of the CVC Act. A significant milestone occurred in 1997 when the Supreme Court directed the CVC to oversee the actions of the CBI, which eventually led to the government bestowing statutory status upon the CVC through an ordinance in 1998. This status was later codified in “The Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003.”
Its primary objective is to supervise all vigilance-related activities in the Central Government and offer guidance to different authorities within Central Government institutions. Vigilance, as implied by its name, focuses on guaranteeing transparent and prompt administrative actions, fostering efficiency and productivity among personnel, and protecting the organization from wastage, losses, and economic downturn.
Provisions of the Act
- The Central Vigilance Commission
- Chapter II of the legislation addresses the formation of the Central Vigilance Commission, a governmental body tasked with specific responsibilities related to vigilance and anti-corruption efforts. Initially established under the Central Vigilance Commission Ordinance, 1999, the Commission continued to operate even after the expiration of that ordinance. It presently operates under the authority of the Indian 2Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions.
- The Commission is composed of three significant positions: the Central Vigilance Commissioner, who serves as the Chairperson, and up to two Vigilance Commissioners, who are members of the Commission. These individuals are selected based on their experience and expertise in areas connected to vigilance, policy formulation, and administration, including police administration. They can be drawn from the All-India Service, the civil services of the Union, or civil posts under the Union. Additionally, individuals with proficiency in finance, law, insurance, banking, and investigations are considered for these roles. It’s important to note that the law restricts the number of individuals who can be chosen from either of these categories (clause (a) or clause (b)) to a maximum of two within the Commission.
- The Central Government designates a Secretary to the Commission, and this Secretary possesses specific powers and duties as per the Commission’s regulations. The terms and conditions of the Secretary’s appointment are determined by the Central Government.
- The text specifies that the Central Vigilance Commissioner, Vigilance Commissioners, and the Secretary to the Commission, initially appointed under the Central Vigilance Commission Ordinance, 1999, or the Government of India’s 1999 Resolution, are regarded as having been appointed under this Act, with the same terms and conditions.
- Lastly, the Commission’s headquarters are situated in New Delhi. This section of the document outlines the fundamental structure of the Central Vigilance Commission, which is responsible for upholding vigilance and preventing corruption within the government.
- Jurisdiction of the Central Vigilance Commission
- The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) wields its authority for vigilance and oversight over a wide array of individuals and positions within the realm of the Indian government. This scope encompasses Union Government Officers, Group A officers in the All-India Services, Public Sector Bank Officers holding the rank of Scale V and higher, officers from institutions like RBI, NABARD, and SIDBI in Grade D and above, along with officers in Group ‘A’ and Group ‘B’ positions within Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs). Additionally, the CVC’s jurisdiction extends to Chief Executives and Board Executives, as well as officers in Schedule ‘C’ and ‘D’ Public Sector Undertakings of the Central Government with ranks of E-7 and above. It also covers officers in General Insurance Companies in managerial roles and above, as well as officers in Life Insurance Companies with titles like Senior Divisional Managers and higher.
- Furthermore, the CVC’s authority includes officers with a monthly salary of `8700/- (pre-revised) and above following the Central Government D.A. pattern, subject to revisions, who work in societies and local authorities owned or supervised by the Central Government. This extensive jurisdiction empowers the CVC to uphold vigilance and transparency across various sectors and entities under the purview of the Central Government.
- Functions of the Central Vigilance Commission
- The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) holds a critical role in combatting corruption and the abuse of public office. It’s important to note that the CVC does not function as an investigative body, except for its examination of Civil Works of the Government. Instead, its primary function is to receive and process complaints pertaining to corruption or misconduct. Various entities, including the central government, Lokpal, and whistleblowers (both individuals within or outside government organizations who expose wrongdoing such as fraud and corruption), have the option to bring their concerns to the CVC. While the CVC itself doesn’t conduct investigations, it has the authority to initiate inquiries by involving the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or Chief Vigilance Officers (CVO) within government offices.
- Furthermore, the CVC is empowered to scrutinize alleged offenses under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, committed by specific categories of public servants. The CVC has a practice of publishing a list of corrupt government officials against whom it has recommended punitive measures. The CVC’s annual report offers insights into its activities, shedding light on systemic issues that contribute to corruption within government departments and providing recommendations for enhancements and preventative measures.
- Expenses and Annual Report
- Chapter IV of the document covers two significant aspects: financial matters and the annual reporting obligations of a government entity known as the Commission.
- Firstly, it stipulates that the financial resources required to sustain this Commission, including the salaries, allowances, and pensions of its key personnel, will be allocated from a fund known as the Consolidated Fund of India. Essentially, this means that the government will earmark funds from this source to meet all the Commission’s financial requirements.
- Secondly, the Commission is mandated to produce an annual report detailing its activities. This report must be submitted to the President within six months following the conclusion of the year. The report should also include a dedicated section discussing the operations of a specific law enforcement agency known as the Delhi Special Police Establishment, particularly in relation to a particular law.
- After receiving this report, it becomes the President’s responsibility to ensure that it is presented to both houses of the Parliament, ensuring that all government officials are informed about the Commission’s activities.
Central Vigilance Commission has been mandated to advise the authorities concerned in respect of an act of improper conduct or corrupt practices, along with review and modification of procedures and guidelines, which may afford scope for corrupt (practices)
Challenges and Limitations of the Central Vigilance Commission
Despite its crucial role in upholding vigilance and integrity in the Indian government, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) faces a number of constraints and challenges:
- One key limitation is its advisory nature, where central government departments can choose whether to accept or reject the CVC’s recommendations in corruption cases. Additionally, the CVC operates with a relatively small staff of 299 individuals, while overseeing more than 1500 Union departments and ministries, which makes it challenging to effectively handle the influx of complaints.
- Another significant constraint is the CVC’s historical inability to independently direct the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to initiate inquiries against officers at the level of Joint Secretary and above. In the past, this required consent from the respective department, but this provision was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2014. The court held that one’s position should not exempt them from the law and cited violations of fundamental rights under Article 14.
- Furthermore, the CVC is primarily involved in vigilance and disciplinary matters and lacks the authority to file criminal cases. While it holds supervisory powers over the CBI, it cannot compel the CBI to follow a specific investigative path. The CBI is administratively controlled by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), which gives the DoPT the authority to appoint, transfer, and suspend CBI officers.
- Appointments to the CVC, although involving the leader of the Opposition in the committee’s selection process, are indirectly influenced by the Union government. The candidates presented for consideration by the committee are determined by the Union government, limiting the committee’s independent decision-making capacity.
These limitations and challenges have left the CVC with insufficient resources and powers to effectively investigate and take action on corruption complaints, thus hindering its capacity to act as a robust deterrent against corruption.
Controversies Surrounding the Central Vigilance Commission
Over the years, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and the Chief Vigilance Officers’ office have encountered challenges related to their transparency and their ability to operate independently, free from executive influence in the exercise of their authority.
- A significant controversy arose in 2010 when PJ Thomas was appointed as the Chief Vigilance Officer. This appointment was recommended by the High-Powered Committee, which included the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and the union home minister. However, the Leader of the Opposition, Sushma Swaraj, raised objections to Thomas’s appointment due to his alleged involvement in the Palm olein Oil Import Scam in 1991-1992. He had faced charges and was listed as the eighth accused in a case filed by the Anti-Corruption Bureau. This controversy resulted in the filing of Public Interest Litigations in the Supreme Court by the Centre for Public Litigation.
- Ultimately, the Supreme Court invalidated the appointment made by the High-Powered Committee, citing inadequacies in the appointment process. The Court emphasized that the Committee should take into account objections raised by its members based on reasonable grounds. It underscored that unanimity within the Committee is not an absolute requirement but a moral obligation. Furthermore, the judgment highlighted the importance of transparency as a crucial criterion for the position of Chief Vigilance Officer. This incident highlighted the necessity for greater diligence and ethical considerations in such appointments and reinforced the significance of transparency in the role of the CVC.
Case of Sumit Kumar Banerjee v. State of West Bengal
The case of Sunil Kumar Banerjee vs. State of West Bengal and Others (1980) pertained to a member of the Indian Administrative Service who faced disciplinary action under the All-India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969. The Commissioner for Departmental Enquiries, Vigilance Commission, West Bengal, was appointed as the Enquiry Officer. Following an inquiry, certain charges were found to be substantiated against the appellant. The disciplinary process involved consultations with the Vigilance Commission and the Union Public Service Commission, leading to the government’s decision to lower the appellant’s rank.
The appellant contested the proceedings and the imposed penalty in court, alleging various irregularities. These included concerns about the rules governing the inquiry, the validity of consulting with the Vigilance Commissioner, the denial of specific opportunities, and doubts about the impartiality of the Enquiry Officer.
The Supreme Court rejected the appeal and determined that the use of the 1969 rules was in accordance with the law, the consultation with the Vigilance Commissioner was legitimate, the appellant had not suffered any prejudice due to the absence of questioning in accordance with the rules, and there was no bias in the role of the Enquiry Officer. The Court underscored that a lack of examination or flawed examination does not warrant interference unless it can be proven that the appellant’s rights were violated. The appeal was dismissed without any costs imposed.
The Central Vigilance Commission has a significant role in combating corruption and misconduct within the Indian government, supported by its history and expanding authority. Its extensive scope enables it to foster transparency and vigilance across various domains. Nonetheless, the CVC encounters obstacles, including its advisory role, resource limitations, and restrictions on initiating investigations. Controversies related to appointments and the call for transparency emphasize the need for ethical considerations in its operations. Despite these challenges, the CVC continues to be a crucial institution committed to promoting clean and effective governance in India.
- https://blog.ipleaders.in/need-know-central-vigilance commission/#Main_issues_and_controversies