CVC asks CVOs to complete disciplinary proceedings through video-conferencing to avoid delays
Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) – the anti-corruption watchdog – has directed all chief vigilance officers (CVOs) in all ministries and government departments to conduct disciplinary proceedings against officials facing enquiries for corruption or administrative lapses via the video-conference facility.
The directive has been issued because of the unprecedented raging coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak that has prompted a strict compliance with maintaining social distancing norms.
The CVC has cited a Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) order as the basis of its new directive.
The DoPT directed authorities in all government departments and banks to carry out the disciplinary proceedings through video-conference on condition that principles of natural justice are adhered to.
The DoPT order stated that the inquiry officer (IO) should utilise digital tools to the maximum extent possible in a bid to minimise travel and should choose a location taking into account the availability of records, station/place where the misconduct occurred and the convenience of the witness.
The decision to use video-conference for conducting disciplinary proceedings was taken after it was noticed that there were delays in such investigations because of the pandemic.
CVOs posted in every government department are responsible for disciplinary proceeding against officials indulging in any activity in violation of the norms. They are also empowered to draw the CVC authorities’ attention to corruption complaints against officials that may necessitate a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
The CVC has repeatedly reminded government departments to carry out their disciplinary proceedings on time.
A July 2018 letter written by CVC to all departments stated that “the unexplained delays lead to Central Administrative Tribunals (CATs) and the high courts (HCs) quashing the charge sheet (s) on the sole ground that the disciplinary authorities concerned had issued charge sheets to the delinquents (officer under investigation) after very long periods of commission of alleged misconduct etc and also for unexplained delays in conducting disciplinary enquiries.
“More so, such long delays in finalising disciplinary matters are not unjust to officials, who may be finally exonerated, but helps the guilty to evade punitive action,” the CVC had said.
The time limit for completion of a department enquiry is six months from the date of appointment of the IO.
However, a study by the CVC in 2016 had stated that the average time taken by the administrative authorities in finalisation of disciplinary proceedings is more than two years and the maximum time taken in a particular case was eight years and in at least 22% of the cases, the probe took over two years.
In a directive issued in May, the new CVC, Sanjay Kothari, had also instructed all ministries and government departments to conduct internal investigations or disciplinary proceedings against government officials much before they are due to retire.
CVC is a statutory body and derives its powers from the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2013. It is free of control from any executive authority and has the responsibility of monitoring all vigilance activities in the federal government besides advising various authorities on planning, executing, reviewing and reforming their vigilance work. A major part of its work is to refer important corruption activities to CBI.