Today's Paper

Statutory powers for CVC to supervise functioning of CBI

NEW DELHI OCT.10. The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) Bill has become an Act about two months after Parliament passed it. It has restored what is called the "Single Directive".

A gazette notification, amending the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, which governs the functioning of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), was issued on September 11.

With this, a statutory status has been conferred on the CVC to exercise superintendence over the functioning of the CBI and the vigilance organisation would also be empowered to probe offences committed by Central Government officers, corporations, societies and local authorities.

It has replaced the Government resolution of April 1999 under which the CVC was functioning till now as a non-statutory body.

The "Single Directive" was struck down by the Supreme Court in December 1997 in its judgment in the Vineet Narain case on the ground that it was "unconstitutional". It has been restored now with statutory sanction, making it mandatory for the CBI to seek prior Government approval for conducting an inquiry into offences committed by officers of the rank of Joint Secretary or above in any government department or public sector undertaking.

Well-placed sources in the CBI confirmed that the "Single Directive" had come into force after the agency received the notification on September 12.

Sources pointed out that the anti-corruption branches of the police force in the States, usually headed by a Deputy Commissioner of Police, would have greater autonomy than the CBI and its Director, as the "Single Directive" would not be a constraint to the State-level vigilance departments.

Also, if it was not for the Supreme Court's judicial activism and its order in the Rs. 175-crore Taj Corridor scam, the CBI would not have been able to lay its hands on senior bureaucrats of Uttar Pradesh. However, the agency would still need to obtain sanction for prosecution when it files chargesheets against the former U.P. Chief Minister, Mayawati, and others.

During a discussion on the CVC Bill in the Rajya Sabha on August 7 last, Opposition members expressed concern over the return of the "Single Directive" as it would curtail the powers of the CBI. They termed the provision "obnoxious" and "shameful" as it aimed at giving an "in-built immunity" to bureaucrats and encouraging an unholy bureaucrat-politician nexus.

Several Members of Parliament also demanded that they should not be treated as public servants and corruption cases against them should be registered only after proper permission. They did not take kindly to the fact that while the provision allowed investigation against all public servants, including MPs, it failed to bring within its ambit government officers of the rank of Joint Secretaries and above.

The Minister of State for Personnel, Haren Pathak, had told them that necessary amendment to the Representation of the People Act was under the Government's consideration.

The Union Law Minister, Arun Jaitley, argued that decision-makers and civil servants should be protected against frivolous complaints.