Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Central Vigilance Commission was set up in 1964 on the recommendation of Santanam Committee. The CVC was a one man Commission for about three and a half decades for exercising general superintendence over vigilance administration in the Government.  Justice Nottoor Srinivasa Rau became the first Central Vigilance Commissioner with effect from 19th February, 1964.  

The Supreme Court of India , in criminal writ petitions nos.340-343/1993 (Vineet Narain and others Vs.Union of India and others) popularly known as Jain Hawala case, had directed on 18.12.1997 that statutory status should be conferred upon the Central Vigilance Commission.  It came on the statute book as the CENTRAL VIGILANCE COMMISSION ACT, 2003 (45 OF 2003).

The Central Vigilance Commission Act,2003 provides for constitution of Central Vigilance Commission to inquire or to cause inquiries to be conducted into offences alleged to have been committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act,1988 by certain categories of public servants  .  

The Act also empowers the Commission to exercise superintendence over the functioning of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) now called Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).     The Commission is also empowered to review the progress of investigations conducted by the CBI and the progress of applications pending with the competent authorities for grant of sanction for prosecution for offences alleged to have been committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act,1988.  The Commission also exercises superintendence over the vigilance administration of the various organizations under the Central Government.
The Commission’s jurisdiction to cause inquiry/investigation into alleged offences of corruption suo-moto extends only to the upper echelons of public servants viz. members of All India Services serving in connection with the affairs of the Union, Group ‘A’level officers of the Central Government and such level of officers in the corporations, Government companies, societies and other local authorities of the Central Government.

The Annual Report of the CVC not only gives the details of the work done by it but also brings out the system failures which lead to corruption in various Departments/Organisations, system improvements; various preventive measures and cases in which the Commission's advises were ignored etc.
 The emphasis of the Commission has been to have in place effective preventive measures to fight corruption and also to increase transparency and accountability in the functioning of the Government.  In tune with the emphasis on good governance, the Commission closely looks at the prevailing systems and procedures of the Government departments and its organizations and recommends system strengthening and improvements.  The Commission has also been continuously emphasizing on Leveraging technology by adopting e-procurement, e-payment, reverse auction etc. for reducing scope for corruption and improving transparency, equity and competitiveness in public procurement.

        The Commission has been engaging with various international anti-corruption agencies/organizations, as a measure of international co-operation.  Creating a Knowledge Management System for international Association of Anti –Corruption Authorities (IAACA) has been one of the recent collaborative initiatives.


Appointment of the CVC Commissioner !

  • The Chief Commissioner of CVC will be appointed by the President of India for a term of six years or at his retirement at the age of 65-years, which ever is earliest. 
  • Hence, the CVC Chief Commissioner does not hold office at the pleasure of the President
  • He can be removed from office by the President on ground of misbehavior but only after the Supreme Court of India has held an inquiry into his case and recommend an action against him.

Organisational set-up

The Central Vigilance Commission has its own Secretariat, Chief Technical Examiners' Wing (CTE) and a wing of Commissioners for Departmental Inquiries (CDI).

The Secretariat

The Secretariat consists of a Secretary of the rank of Additional Secretary to the GOI, one officer of the rank of Joint Secretary to the GOI, ten officers of the rank of Director/Deputy Secretary, four Under Secretaries and office staff.

Chief Technical Examiners' Wing (CTE)

The Chief Technical Examiner's Organisation constitutes the technical wing of the Central Vigilance Commission (India) and is manned by two Engineers of the rank of Chief Engineers(designated as Chief Technical Examiners) with supporting engineering staff. The main functions assigned to this organisation are:
  • Technical audit of construction works of Governmental 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; and
  • Tendering of advice/assistance to the Commission and Chief Vigilance Officers in vigilance cases involving technical matters.                                                               
Commissioners for Departmental Inquiries (CDIs)

There are fifteen posts of Commissioners for Departmental Inquiries (CDI) in the Commission, 14 in the rank of Deputy Secretaries/Directors and one in the rank of Joint Secretary to Government of India. The CDIs function as Inquiry Officers to conduct Oral inquiries in departmental proceeding initiated against public servants.


Jurisdiction of CVC !

Commission’s Jurisdiction under CVC Act
  • Members of All India Service serving in connection with the affairs of the Union and Group A officers of the Central Government
  • Officers of the rank of Scale V and above in the Public Sector Banks
  • Officers in Grade D and above in Reserve Bank of India, NABARD and SIDBI
  • Chief Executives and Executives on the Board and other officers of E-8 and above in Schedule ‘A’ and ‘B’ Public Sector Undertakings
  • Chief Executives and Executives on the Board and other officers of E-7 and above in Schedule ‘C’ and ‘D’ Public Sector Undertakings
  • Managers and above in General Insurance Companies
  • Senior Divisional Managers and above in Life Insurance Corporations
  • Officers drawing salary of Rs.8700/- p.m. and above on Central Government D.A. pattern, as on the date of the notification and as may be revised from time to time in Societies and other Local Authorities

Which Ministry/Department controls the CVC?

The CVC is not controlled by any Ministry/Department. It is an independent body which is only responsible for the Parliament.

Can the CVC investigate a case against anybody?
Firstly, the CVC is not an investigating agency. The CVC either get the investigation done through the CBI or through the Departmental Chief Vigilance Officers. Secondly, the CVC orders investigation in to cases of officials of Central Government Departments/Companies/Organisations only.


SWOT Analysis of the CVC !

Strength (S)
  • The strength of CVC lies in its stature, though it does not find a place in the Constitution.  
  • Perhaps while framing the Constitution it was not expected that there would be so much of erosion of values and eruption of corruption.  
  • Otherwise, they must have included in the Constitution itself, a Commission of the stature of CVC similar to CEC, CAG and UPSC.   
  • Probably, realising this gap that the government thought it fit to give the status of the CVC at par with the CEC/UPSC and subsequently made it a statutory body.  
  • So, the present stature of CVC is certainly the greatest strength.

The next is its network provided in the statute by way of extended hands to perform its function, i.e. the Chief Vigilance Officers (CVOs) on the one hand and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on the other.  The spread and reach is all over the country.  This certainly is strength.  

The next one is the amalgamation of experience and expertise.  This amalgamation comes with the officials deputed to CVC from different central services.  This is unique in a sense that the repository of knowledge in CVC gets supplemented and enriched through their domain knowledge / expertise in their respective services.  

Finally, the in-house repository of knowledge available in CVC in its permanent officials who provide not only continuity but also posses the wealth of knowledge and also in the thousands of complaints, cases handled and advice tendered by CVC over half a century is a great strength as well. In fact, with these CVC could set up a Vigilance Academy which would go beyond the stature and purpose of the International Anti-Corruption Academy which was inaugurated in September 2010 in Laxenburg, Vienna, Austria. 

Weakness (W)

  • The biggest weakness of CVC is its jurisdiction.  
Out of the three pillars of our democracy, CVC has no jurisdiction over Legislature and Judiciary.  In the case of the third pillar, i.e. Executive also, the CVC has jurisdiction only over the Central Government and the State Governments do not come under CVC.  In a nutshell, the CVC’s jurisdiction is very limited and does not commensurate with its stature. Even though the CVC is claimed to be the apex anti-corruption body of India, this limitation of jurisdiction has been the greatest weakness of CVC.

  • The second weakness is the absence of an exclusive ‘Investigation wing’ in CVC.  

Of course, CVC has been undertaking direct enquiries in addition to the cases referred by it to CBI for investigation.  However, in most of the cases, the CVC depends on its extended hands, the Chief Vigilance Officers (CVO).  The weakness gets exposed here particularly when there are allegations of corruption against Board level executives of the Public Sector Enterprises. In all such cases, the CVOs of the PSEs are not authorised to investigate.  The Board Level executives come under the jurisdiction of the Ministry/Department.  Only the CVOs of Ministry / Department are authorised to enquire into such allegations against Board level executives. Unfortunately, the CVOs of the Ministry/Department are part-time CVOs and they have a minimal manpower and a structured vigilance department is missing. In fact, this is not only weakness but also vulnerable particularly when a Ministry has half a dozen or more PSEs under its basket and managed by a part-time CVO without a structured vigilance department.  

  • Another weakness is the lack clarity on the role of the extended hands of CVC, i.e. the CVOs.  
Presently, the CVOs act as special advisor/assistant to the Head of the department or the CEO of organisation.  At the same time, they report functionally to CVC and per se has independence in functioning.  Nevertheless, the actual protection to CVOs comes from CVC when the ACRs of CVOs are finally accepted by CVC after the reporting by the Head of the Department/CEO and review by the Secretary of the Administrative Ministry.  However, this alone cannot guarantee total independence of functioning of CVO on a day to day basis.  The ‘catch 22’ situation can not be ruled out, which is definitely a weakness.  

Opportunities (O)
Most of the time, the opportunities emerge out of weaknesses, if they could be identified.  Every weakness when identified provides an opportunity and the onus lies with us to convert it into strength.  Some of the weaknesses discussed above certainly provide opportunity to convert them in to strength.
Firstly, the weakness of limited jurisdiction of CVC could be converted into strength in the following manner:

(i) Recommendation No.71 of the Santhanam Committee reads as follows:  ’71.  Sub-offices of the Central Vigilance Commission may be established at Bombay, Calcutta, Delhi and Madras in charge of serving Government servants of a sufficiently high rank and to discharge such functions and duties as may be allotted to them by the Central Vigilance Commission.’  
  • So, here lies an opportunity to expand.  This does not automatically expand the jurisdiction of CVC.  
  • Nevertheless, the Commission could perhaps take up the issue further to place it at par with the CEC by all means.  
  • Like the CEC is responsible for the State Elections as well, the CVC should be made responsible for entire anti-corruption measures in the country including the States.  
  • For this purpose, the CVC needs to be given the Constitutional status with the State Vigilance Commissions under its fold.  
  • After all, the money flows to the States from the Union government and the RBI under the Union has the complete control over the States on money matter and as such a simple interpretation could be drawn to this effect and CVC’s jurisdiction could be extended to all States to ensure proper spending of the money allocation.  
  • Then automatically, the State Vigilance Commission could come under CVC as in the case of Election Commission.  This may not happen immediately. 
  • Till that time, the Commission may seriously take all efforts to establish      sub-offices in the four metro cities as recommended by the Santhanam Committee.  

(ii) The Commission may also consider taking officials on deputation from the State Governments, so that such officials could carry home the vigilance experience which could be utilised for the state governments by entrusting them with the vigilance work in the state government departments.

  • Secondly, the role of CVOs needs to be reviewed and redefined.  The present status of CVOs as ‘Special Advisor/Assistant’ to the Head of the      department or the CEO of the organisation needs to be changed and redefined as a ‘special monitor/oversight expert’ who must report to CVC.  
  • In fact, this would become feasible with the establishment of sub-offices in Metro cities as recommended by the Santhanam Committee.  
  • By this way, the CVOs could be made to report to the CVC through the sub-offices in their respective regions.  This would be similar to the set up and reporting of the Audit under CAG.  

(iii) There is yet another opportunity available in taking officers from various central services on deputation to CVC.  It is true that these officials come on deputation to CVC with their domain knowledge and expertise.  However, they do not generally possess vigilance experience.  In fact, during their deputation period with CVC, their domain knowledge gets amalgamated with the vigilance experience, which needs to be utilised in a much effective and practical way.  Here a cap could be introduced.  For the purpose of deputation to CVC, there should be a condition in such a way that the officers who are taken on deputation to CVC should initially work in CVC for a period of 2-3 years and then would be posted as CVO in some organisation/department depending upon the need / choice.  This in a way would be like an internship in CVC followed by a practical regular work in the organisations.  No CVO who has not completed the so called internship in CVC should be appointed as CVO in the organisations.  This kind of model is working successfully in the education department of Singapore, wherein the officials who frame the policy at the government level are subsequently deputed to the schools/colleges to implement the policies which they made.  This perhaps will ensure that only policies which are practical alone are made.  
The Commission could also think of selection of CVOs to the PSEs through the PESB route, wherein the CVC could be made as the Chairman of the Selection Committee.  

Threats (T)
  • One of the major threats as of now is the Lokpal The workload of CVC would go up, with lokpal referring complaints against even Group B, C and D officials to it. The CVC will continue to investigate complaints against Group A officials independently as well as on reference from lokpal. 
  • Secondly, the advisory role of CVC has also turned out to be a threat over the period of time.  As per the scheme of things, the option available with the CVC when its advices were not taken by the authorities has been to reflect such cases in its Annual Report, which are placed before both the Houses of Parliament.  The intention behind this was that such cases reported in the Annual Report are deliberated and debated in the Parliament so that the authorities concerned are pulled up and held accountable for their (in)action.  Unfortunately, as is witnessed, there has been hardly any discussion on the Annual Report of CVC in the Parliament.  An easy parallel could be drawn between annual report of CAG and CVC to observe the contrast.  This certainly is a major threat.  Unless the Annual Reports of CVC are taken seriously and debated in the Parliament, the whole effort of the CVC and its extended hands, i.e. the CVOs would not yield result, particularly when the role of CVC and CVO are advisory in nature.  This threat could be overcome only when the CVC gets the Constitutional authority like the CEC and the CAG.


Miscellaneous !

According to the new Lokpal and Lokayut Bill, the CVC would continue to head the selection committee to shortlist the CBI chief, and will also shortlist the newly proposed director of prosecution for the investigating agency.


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