Vigilance is the process of constantly monitoring the activities of officers and officials of an organisation to ensure the integrity of personnel in their official transactions. By definition, vigilance is ensuring clean and timely administration on the part of employees and organisations to promote efficiency and effectiveness. We can also say that lack of vigilance leads to the wastage of human capital, losses of resources, and overall economic decline.
In this law note, you will read about the root cause of corruption in India and the availability of various mechanisms to prevent it.
Corruption in the Indian System of Administration
Corruption in administration is a fundamental problem affecting the Indian politico-administrative system. It is an assault on the conscience. Corruption in public life is one of India’s most daunting issues. India is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. The single most dangerous source of decay of the system is ‘corruption’, which destroys the moral fibre of society and reduces the faith of people in their leaders. It destroys the institutions’ credibility, slows growth, and undermines the government’s efforts. Public confidence in government departments is dependent on their incorruptibility. Ironically, India has one of the world’s most comprehensive anti-corruption setups.
Causes of Corruption
In June 1962, in a parliamentary debate, members of the Parliament tried to attract the attention of the House to the increasing level of corruption. The then Home Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri constituted the Commission under the leadership of Members of Parliament (MP) to review existing instruments of checking corruption in the government services at the junior level and to advise practical steps to make anti-corruption measures more effective.
The Commission identified four major causes behind corruption. There are:
- Administrative delay.
- Increasing scope for personal discretion in the exercise of the power vested in distinct categories of government services.
- Increasing governmental workload.
- Cumbersome procedures in dealing with various matters which were of great public importance in their day-to-day life.
Establishment of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC)
Based on all the above four findings, the Commission recommended an apex body to exercise general superintendence over administration. It was in this background the government of India established the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) in 1964 through executive resolution. The resolution of 1964 had two significant provisions:
- It identified the charter of CVC. Its main function was to undertake, inquire or investigate any complaint of corruption, misconduct, lack of integrity and other kinds of maladministration (inefficient or dishonest administration) on the part of public servants, including the members of All India Services.
- To maintain that, though the Central Vigilance Commission will be attached office of the Ministry of Home Affairs in the exercise of its power and function, it will not be subordinate to any ministry or department. The CVC will have the same measure of independence and autonomy as that of the Union Public Service Commission.
The Famous Hawala Case
The Union government in 1997 had constituted one independent review committee, and that committee recommended statutory status for CVC.
Supreme Court of India, in the criminal case “Vineet Narain & Ors vs Union Of India” (Hawala Case), gave direction to the Union government on 18th December 1997 to ensure independence and autonomy of CBI and ordered CBI to be placed under the supervision of CVC and thorough investigation regardless of the identity of accused.
The selection for the post of Central Vigilance Commissioner shall be made by a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, Home Minister, and leader of the opposition from a penal of outstanding civil servants and others with integrity. Union government, through an ordinance dated 25th August 1998, conferred statutory status to CVC, and finally, in 2003, the government passed CVC Act and the Commission was given statutory status.
Composition of CVC
Central Vigilance Commission, as a statutory body, consists of one Central Vigilance Commissioner and not more than two Vigilance Commissioners. The President of India shall appoint them all by warrant under his hand and seal. This appointment shall be based on the recommendation of a committee headed by the Prime Minister and leader of the opposition of Lok Sabha. They hold office for four years or till 65 years of age.
Jurisdictions of CVC
Central Vigilance Commission has jurisdiction over all these persons as mentioned below:
- Member of All India Service serving in connection with Union and Group-A officers of the Union.
- Officers of the rank of scale-V and above in public sector bank.
- Officers Grade D and above in RBI, NABARD and SIDBI.
- Managers and clove in GIC (General Insurance Corporation).
- Senior Divisional Managers & above in the LIC.
- Chief executive & executives and other officers of and above E-8 in Schedule A and Schedule b of the Public Sector Undertaking.
- Chief executive, executives, and other officers of and above E-7 in Schedule C and Schedule D Public Sector Undertaking.
Functions of CVC
The main functions of the Indian Central Vigilance Commission are:
- The Central Vigilance Commission is given the responsibility to prevent corruption in India. As a proactive body, it is expected to exercise jurisdiction over the functioning of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) constituted under the DSPE Act (1946) concerning investigating offences alleged to have been committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. It also has powers to investigate an offence with any servants belonging to categories like All India Services connected with the Union and may be charged under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
- To give direction to Delhi Special Police Establishment to discharge the responsibility of superintendence, but the Commission shall not exercise power in such a manner to require the DSPE to investigate matters in any case in a particular manner.
- To enquire or call the inquiry or investigation to be made on a reference by the Union government wherein it is a complaint that public servant being an employee of Union government or corporation established by or under any Union Act, the government company, society, and any other local authority owned or controlled by the government, has committed an offence under Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
- To review the progress of the investigation conducted by DSPE into offences relating to the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
- To exercise superintendence over vigilance administration by various ministries by Union government or corporation established by or under any Union Act, government company, society and local authorities owned or controlled by the government.
- The appointment of a Central Vigilance Officer must get approved by the Central Vigilance Commission, and no person shall be appointed if the Commission objects to it. CVC is authorised to draft an annual confidential report of CVO.
Apart from these, CVC also enjoys an advisory role. It extends to all matters on vigilance administration referred to it by the department of the Union government. It is mandatory on the part of the organisation to see the Commission’s advice before proceeding further in a matter where the earlier report was called for by the Commission. The Commission gives second-stage advice where major penalty proceedings are advised. The Commission needs to be consulted for cases where enquiry proceedings are not possible due to extraordinary circumstances. Commission tenders advice to the Union government, corporations and companies on such matters as may be referred to it.
With all these authorities, CVC is expected to discharge its duties to discourage corruption in the country. Its proceedings are judicial in character, and it presents a report to the President, who places it before each House of Parliament.
Limitations of CVC
Although the Central Vigilance Commission is enjoying statutory status, it is suffering from some limitations:
- The Commission is an agency of executive with statutory status, and it is only an advisory body. Departments are free to either accept or reject the advice of the Commission.
- The Commission has no investigating mechanism of its own. It depends upon CBI. It cannot direct CBI to initiate an enquiry and to complete an enquiry in each period.
- The Commission does not have any power to register any criminal case.
- Although it has supervising power over CBI, it does not have the power to call any files from CBI or to direct CBI to investigate the case in a particular manner.
As a result, the Central Vigilance Commission is not remarkably effective, and to check corruption, a number of other institutions, including Lokpal, are in demand.
Thus, looking at the statutory power, functions, and limitations of the CVC, we can conclude that this has become yet another body in the hands of the legislature that can be compared to a gun with an empty barrel. To improvise the same, the government must grant investigating power and punitive powers to the Central Vigilance Commission, where judicial intervention is not required.
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