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Constitutional Framework GS Paper II

Central Vigilance Commission

Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) is an apex Indian governmental body created in 1964 to address governmental corruption. In 2003, the Parliament enacted a law conferring statutory status on the CVC. It has the status of an autonomous body, free of control from any executive authority, charged with monitoring all vigilance activity under the Central Government of India, advising various authorities in central Government organizations in planning, executing, reviewing and reforming their vigilance work.

It was set up by the Government of India Resolution on 11 February 1964, on the recommendations of the Committee on Prevention of Corruption, headed by Shri K. Santhanam Committee, to advise and guide Central Government agencies in the field of vigilance. Nittoor Srinivasa Rau, was selected as the first Chief Vigilance Commissioner of India. 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 leads to corruption in various Departments/Organisations, system improvements, various preventive measures and cases in which the Commission’s advises were ignored etc.

The Commission shall consist of:

  • A Central Vigilance Commissioner – Chairperson;
  • Not more than two Vigilance Commissioners – Members.


The CVC is not an investigating agency: the only investigation carried out by the CVC is that of examining Civil Works of the Government. Corruption investigations against government officials can proceed only after the government permits order. The CVC publishes a list of cases where permissions are pending, some of which may be more than a year old.

The Ordinance of 1998 conferred statutory status to the CVC and the powers to exercise superintendence over the functioning of the Delhi Special Police Establishment, and also to review the progress of the investigations on alleged offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 conducted by them. In 1998 the Government introduced the CVC Bill in the Lok Sabha to replace the Ordinance, though it was not successful. The Bill was re-introduced in 1999 and remained with the Parliament until September 2003, when it became an Act after being duly passed in both the Houses of Parliament. The CVC has also been publishing a list of corrupt government officials against which it has recommended punitive action. In 2004, GoI authorized the CVC as the “Designated Agency” to receive written complaints for disclosure on any allegation of corruption or misuse of office and recommend appropriate action. This report delivers to the president.


The Central Vigilance Commissioner and the Vigilance Commissioners shall be appointed by the President on recommendation of a Committee consisting of the Prime Minister (Chairperson), the Minister of home affairs (Member) and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of the People.

Oath or affirmation

The Central Vigilance Commissioner and a Vigilance Commissioner, before he enters upon his office, is required to make and subscribe to following oath or affirmation:

…., having been appointed Central Vigilance Commissioner (or Vigilance Commissioner) of the Central Vigilance Commission, do swear in the name of God (or solemnly affirm) that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of India as by law established, that I will uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India, that I will duly and faithfully and to the best of my ability, knowledge and judgment perform the duties of my office without fear or favour, affection or ill-will and that I will uphold the constitution and the laws.

— The Schedule of the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003

Limitations of CVC

  • CVC is only an advisory body. Central Government Departments are free to either accept or reject CVC’s advice in corruption cases.
  • CVC does not have adequate resources compared with the number of complaints that it receives. It is a very small set up with a sanctioned staff strength of 299. Whereas, it is supposed to check corruption in more than 1500 central government departments and ministries.
  • CVC cannot direct CBI to initiate inquiries against any officer of the level of Joint Secretary and above on its own. Such permission has to be obtained from the concerned department. However, this provision is declared unconstitutional by the Supreme court in a 2014 judgement in a case filed by Hon’ble Subramaniam Swamy. Supreme Court of India in its judgement stated that merely the post of a person cannot keep him above the law, stating the provision in CBI section 6 is violative of fundamental right Article 14.
  • CVC does not have powers to register the criminal case. It deals only with vigilance or disciplinary cases.
  • CVC has supervisory powers over CBI. However, CVC does not have the power to call for any file from CBI or to direct CBI to investigate any case in a particular manner. CBI is under the administrative control of the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), which means that the powers to appoint, transfer, suspend CBI officers to lie with DoPT.
  • Appointments to CVC are indirectly under the control of Govt of India, though the leader of the Opposition (in Lok Sabha) is a member of the Committee to select CVC and VCs. But the Committee considers candidates put up before it. These candidates are decided by the Government.

As a result, although CVC is relatively independent in its functioning, it has neither resources nor powers to inquire and take action on complaints of corruption that may act as an effective deterrence against corruption.

Roles and Functions

Who are the Chief Vigilance Officers?

The Chief Vigilance Officers are extended hands of the CVC. The Chief Vigilance Officers are considerably higher level officers who are appointed in each and every Department/Organisation to assist the Head of the Department/Organisation in all vigilance matters.

What are the selection and appointment procedures for the Chief Vigilance Officers?

Selection and Appointment

The Chief Vigilance Officers constitute an important link between the organizations concerned and the Central Vigilance Commission (as also the CBI). The following procedures have been laid down/evolved in the matter of appointment of CVOs:

  • Prior approval of the Commission for appointment of an officer as CVO;
  • As far as possible, the Chief Vigilance Officers should be from outside the Organization in which he is to be appointed. The initial tenure of full-time CVO in PSUs is for three years extendable by two years in the same organisation with the approval of the Commission or upto a further period of three years on transfer to another PSU on completion of initial tenure of three years in the previous PSU.
  • In cases where the scale of operation of a particular organization does not justify creation of a full-time post, an officer within the organization sufficiently senior in rank to be able to report directly to the Chief Executive or vigilance matters may be considered for such appointments;
  • The officer to be given additional charge of the post of CVO should not be one whose normal duties involve dealing with matters sensitive from vigilance point of view (like recruitment, purchase, etc.);
  • Once an officer has worked as CVO in an organization, he should not go back as CVO to the same organization again;
  • An officer who is appointed from outside as CVO in Central Public Undertaking shall not be permanently absorbed in the same organization on expiry or in continuation of his tenure as CVO in that organization; and
  • The “Vigilance” and “Security” function in an organization should be separated as both the activities are equally demanding and the discharge of “security” functions by a Chief Vigilance Officer only leads to dilution of supervision on vigilance matters. However, an exception has been made in respect of the hotel industry.

What is the role and functions of Chief Vigilance Officers?

Role and functions of Chief Vigilance Officers

Even though detection and punishment of corruption and other malpractices are certainly important, what is more important is taking preventive measures instead of hunting for the guilty in the post corruption stage. Therefore, the role and functions of CVOs has been broadly divided in to two parts, which are (I) Preventive and (II) Punitive.

On the preventive side

The CVOs undertake various measures, which include:

  • To examine in detail the existing Rules and procedures of the Organisation with a view to eliminate or minimise the scope for corruption or malpractices;
  • To identify the sensitive/corruption prone spots in the Organisation and keep an eye on personnel posted in such areas;
  • To plan and enforce surprise inspections and regular inspections to detect the system failures and existence of corruption or malpractices;
  • To maintain proper surveillance on officers of doubtful integrity; and
  • To ensure prompt observance of Conduct Rules relating to integrity of the Officers, like
    • The Annual Property Returns;
    • Gifts accepted by the officials
    • Benami transactions
    • Regarding relatives employed in private firms or doing private business etc.

On the punitive side:

(((12 related words for punitive, like– punitory, vindictive, disciplinary, penal, avenging, punishing, revengeful, vindicatory, rewarding, beneficial and reward.)))

  • To ensure speedy processing of vigilance cases at all stages. In regard to cases requiring consultation with the Central Vigilance Commission, a decision as to whether the case had a vigilance angle shall in every case be taken by the CVO who, when in doubt, may refer the matter to his administrative head, i.e. Secretary in the case of Ministries/Departments and Chief Executive in the case of public sector organisations;
  • To ensure that charge-sheet, statement of imputations, lists of witness and documents etc. are carefully prepared and copies of all the documents relied upon and the statements of witnesses cited on behalf of the disciplinary authority are supplied wherever possible to the accused officer along with the charge-sheet;
  • To ensure that all documents required to be forwarded to the Inquiring Officer are carefully sorted out and sent promptly;
  • To ensure that there is no delay in the appointment of the Inquiring Officer and that no dilatory tactics are adopted by the accused officer or the Presenting Officer;
  • To ensure that the processing of the Enquiry Officer’s Reports for final orders of the Disciplinary Authority is done properly and quickly;
  • To scrutinise final orders passed by the Disciplinary Authorities subordinate to the Ministry/Department, with a view to see whether a case for review is made out or not;
  • To see that proper assistance is given to the C.B.I. in the investigation of cases entrusted to them or started by them on their own source of information;
  • To take proper and adequate action with regard to writ petitions filed by accused officers;
  • To ensure that the Central Vigilance Commission is consulted at all stages where it is to be consulted and that as far as possible, the time limits prescribed in the Vigilance Manual for various stages are adhered to;
  • To ensure prompt submission of returns to the Commission;
  • To review from time to time the existing arrangements for vigilance work in the Ministry/Department for vigilance work subordinate officers to see if they are adequate to ensure expeditious and effective disposal of vigilance work;
  • To ensure that the competent disciplinary authorities do not adopt a dilatory or law attitude in processing vigilance cases, thus knowingly otherwise helping the subject public servants, particularly in cases of officers due to retire;
  • To ensure that cases against the public servants on the verge of retirement do not lapse due to time-limit for reasons such as misplacement of files etc. and that the orders passed in the cases of retiring officers are implemented in time;
  • To ensure that the period from the date of serving a charge-sheet in a disciplinary case to the submission of the report of the Inquiry Officer, should, ordinarily, not exceed six months.

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