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Institutional set-up for fighting corruption in India: Recent changes and their effectiveness

Relevant constitutional provisions

Police: State subject. Any criminal offence committed in a state can only be investigated by the agencies of state govt. Criminal law: Concurrent subject. Both the central & state governments have jurisdiction Implies the central govt. agencies have to take concurrence of the state government for investigating a corruption offence

Anti- corruption institutions of the central government

Prevention of Corruption Act, 1987 Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) Chief Vigilance Officers (CVO s) in various ministries and organizations Civil service conduct rules

Prevention of Corruption Act, 1987

Existed earlier, revised in 1987 A very broad definition of public servants, to whom it applies In case of conviction, imprisonment from 6 months to 7 years Any one with assets disproportionate to his income commits criminal misconduct Members of legislatures are covered, according to the Supreme Court

Central Bureau of Investigation

A police organization Can take up investigation of an offence only if the concerned state government permits it to. In practice, blanket permission by the states to investigate corruption offences by central government employees

Central Bureau of Investigation (continued)

Supreme Court/High Courts often ask CBI to investigate particular cases, under PIL Initially set up as an anti-corruption agency. Now takes up all sorts of caseheinous crimes, terrorism etc. Most of the senior officers drawn from state governments for 5 years

Central Vigilance Commission (CVC)

Set up in 1964 as the apex organization for maintaining probity in public life Causes complaints to be enquired into Monitors/conducts disciplinary proceedings involving corruption Prior to 1998, not much teeth Advising not binding on the government, however disagreement cases mentioned in annual report, placed before parliament

Chief Vigilance Officers (CVO s)

Each ministry/organization has a CVO, appointed after clearance from the CVC The CVO reports (for most matters) to the CVC Monitors and takes action on irregularities in the organization, and reports them to the CVC All cases of suspected corruption referred to him

Conduct Rules (some examples relating to the higher civil service)

Intimation about all moveable/immoveable property required at the time of joining civil service No acquisition of immoveable property without previous knowledge of govt. Every transaction exceeding Rs. 15000 ($300) to be informed of within a month Annual return in respect of immoveable property

Conduct Rules (continued)

Can accept gifts from friends and relatives on special occasions, within Rs. 5000 ($100) No speculation in stocks/shares And no conduct unbecoming of a government servant

Set-up in the state governments

Parallel to the central government Role of CBI played by vigilance wing of the state police Role of CVC by the state vigilance bureaus/ombudsman No functionary equivalent to CVO s of the central government

Major problems prior to 1998

CBI not really independent. The govt. could bring in new officers, or shift out inconvenient ones, at will Nothing at the disposal of CVC to enable it to exercise authority. It could not ask the CBI to investigate an alleged offence Single Directive: No investigation could be started against officers above a certain level

Major problems (continued)

Sanction for prosecution: permission of government needed before actual trial began. No time limit. Slow investigation (sometimes) Slow disposal of cases in courts: the guilty never got punished

Supreme Court directions

Directions issued in a public interest case, seeking investigation against certain high functionaries of the government Recommendations of a govt. committee adopted by the court CVC to be made statutory Single directive struck down (violated the fundamental right to equality)

Supreme Court directions (continued)

Time limit fixed for sanction for prosecution CBI to report to CVC for corruption cases Chief Vigilance Commissioner to be appointed by a committee with the leader of opposition as a member CBI Director, and other senior officers to be appointed (deputed) by a committee headed by the CVC

Supreme Court directions (continued)

CVC could now cause specific complaints to be investigated by CBI Fixed tenure of 2 years for Director, CBI Independent prosecution agency to be set up In general the CBI to be freed from extraneous influence of any kind

Present status of implementation of Supreme Courts directions

Except for the giving of statutory status to the CVC, all other directions have been implemented A bill to confer statutory status on the CVC is pending in parliament

Effect of the changes?

The CBI definitely has much more independence. There have been instances of the govt. wanting to shift out officers but not succeeding The CVC now plays a more important role. It has the services of CBI at its disposal However, there is not much change in the disposal of work by the CBI. Not much change in the investigations completed

Effect (continued)

There is no significant improvement in the no. of CBI cases disposed of in courts The major cases are still not disposed of; for eg. Bofors, HDW Submarine case etc. No changes in states. Far more important as the states employ a lot more civil servants

What more needs to be done

Similar changes are required in the states. The situation there is much more alarming. For example the average conviction rate in anti-corruption cases there: 30%, compared to CBIs 70% The Supreme Court had asked the center to advise the states in this regard. The advice has not been heeded

What more needs to be done (continued)

The procedure for disciplinary proceedings needs much simplification. At present there are multiple stages and too much opportunity to the accused to defend himself In cases of promotion, the procedure for vigilance clearance should be clearly defined

What more needs to be done (continued)

Urgent need to set up special courts. States have to do this The rule that those whose performance is not up to the mark can be retired after 50 should be used to weed out the corrupt