The Central Vigilance Commission is the foremost guardian of integrity and transparency in the Indian government and receives cases or complaints involving absence of probity and integrity in administration. Data indicates that while the average number of cases received by the CVC fell in the last decade, the number of complaints received under the ‘Public Interest Disclosure and Protection of Informers’ Resolution increased.
The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), as the foremost guardian of integrity and transparency in the Indian government, is committed to upholding a vigilant, ethical, and responsive system of governance. A crucial aspect of the Central Vigilance Commission’s responsibilities involves receiving corruption complaints from the public, scrutinizing these complaints, and then advising relevant agencies to investigate and act based on the legitimacy of the allegations. The Commission employs a multifaceted strategy to combat corruption, which includes preventive, punitive, and participatory vigilance measures.
In this first part of the series on CVC’s statistics on complaints, disposals, and punishments, we look at the types of complaints filed with the commission and the trends related to it. In the next story, the focus is on the Chief Vigilance Officers (CVOs) and their working statistics.
Note: This story is limited to the complaints received by the commission only and actions taken by it on the complaints.
How CVC works?
One of the reasons behind the establishment of CVC is the lack of common standards in deciding cases involving the absence of probity and integrity in administration. The Commission has only specified jurisdiction and has no jurisdiction over private individuals and State Governments.
CVC as an organization receives complaints over multiple modes/channels.
- From the organization where the employee works through its vigilance division.
- Under “Public Interest Disclosure and Protection of Informer” Resolution (whistle-blower).
- Under general complaints
The Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) leads the Vigilance Division within the organization and serves as an advisor to the chief executive regarding all vigilance-related issues. Additionally, they establish a connection between their organization and both the CVC as well as the Central Bureau of Investigation, facilitating communication and coordination.
Once the commission receives the complaint, it may take any of the following actions.
- Get an investigation done by any investigating agency or respective CVO and call for an investigation report.
- Send the complaint for factual report (FR) or discreet verification and obtain the report.
- Send the complaint to the respective CVO for necessary action (NA)
- File or close the complaint, without any further action.
Further, unless specifically filed under whistle-blower protection, the Commission does not entertain anonymous or pseudonymous complaints. Any complaint without verifiable facts, factual details and vague allegations will not be acted upon.
Gradual decline in the vigilance cases received by commission in recent years.
The Commission reviews numerous vigilance cases resulting from investigations carried out by the Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) or the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to provide guidance. This consultation can occur at two stages: first, to begin criminal and/or departmental actions, and second, to decide on imposing significant or minor penalties following departmental procedures.
Over the years, the number of cases received in the Commission for obtaining its advice has been on a decline. Between 1991-2000, an average of 4635 cases were received by the commission, out of which 4555 were disposed of. From 2001-10, the average number of cases received rose to 5718, while the disposal has been around 5716. Between 2011-2022, the average number of cases received fell to 4093, while the disposal was 3877, both falling by almost 30%.
The disposed cases include cases disposed of by the Commission as first-stage and second-stage advice and also reconsideration requests.
Only a miniscule percentage of general complaints are actually sent for further investigations.
Due to the public’s high expectations of the Commission, the Commission receives a growing number of complaints. These complaints come to the Central Vigilance Commission in various ways: people send them by mail, use the complaint submission tools on the Commission’s website, or make use of the toll-free number provided by the Commission.
It is observed that a majority of the complaints filed with the Commission are anonymous/pseudonymous in nature. As a general policy in CVC, anonymous/pseudonymous complaints are not entertained. Furthermore, many complaints have vague or unverifiable allegations and are also out of the scope of the jurisdiction of CVC. As a result, a very small proportion of complaints actually are found serious enough to warrant further follow-up at the Commission’s end.
Complaints under PIDPI on a rise
For handling complaints from whistle-blowers, the Government of India designated the Central Vigilance Commission as a nodal agency, under the “Public Interest Disclosure and Protection of Informers” Resolution (PIDPI) in 2004. Further, CVC is entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the identity of the complainant.
The data on the number of complaints under PIDPI resolution show that there is a rise in the number of complaints over the past two decades. The average number of complaints from 2004 to 2013 stood at 516, while the average number of complaints from 2014 to 2022 rose to 940, accounting for almost 80% rise. The average disposals of complaints stood at 489 and 907 respectively.
Interestingly, the share of the complaints that are forwarded to CVO/CBI for further investigation fell from almost 50% in 2004 to 13% in 2022.
A shift towards major penalty can be observed in punishments of public servants.
Once the complaint is acted upon by the commission, and based on its recommendations, authorities with the necessary authority in different organizations authorize legal actions against public servants and enforce penalties on them. Three different kinds of punishments are usually awarded – major penalty, minor penalty, and administrative action. Major penalties include dismissal, removal, and compulsory retirement.
The number of prosecutions sanctioned rose from 9 in 1990 to 248 in 2021, the second highest after 262 in 2010 in the past three decades. In 2022, around 220 prosecutions were sanctioned against public servants. It is also evident that there is a shift from minor penalties and administrative actions towards major penalties. The share of major penalties out of the total punishments was 33% in 1990, which then rose to 55% in 2021, thereafter falling to 42% in 2022. Similarly, the share of minor penalties fell from 45% to 33% between 1990 and 2021, and the proportion of administrative action fell from 23% to 12% during the same period.
Featured Image: Central Vigilance Commission