Corruption: Procedure for investigation

Investigation into the complaints against Public Servants
for abuse of their Official position:

Necessity of investigation into allegations of corruption:

The adverse impact of lack of probity in public life leading to a high degree of corruption is manifold. It also has adverse effect on foreign investment and funding from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank who have warned that future aid to under-developed countries may be subject to the requisite steps being taken to eradicate corruption, which prevents international aid from reaching those for whom it is meant. Increasing corruption has led to investigative journalism which is of value to a free society. The need to highlight corruption in public life through the medium of public interest litigation invoking judicial review may be frequent in India but is not unknown in other countries.
[See R v Secretary of State for Foreign andCommonwealth Affairs, (1995) 1 WLR 386.]

Of course, the necessity of desirable procedures evolved by court rules to ensure that such a litigation is properly conducted and confined only to mattes of public interest is obvious. This is the effort made in these proceedings for the enforcement of fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution in exercise of powers conferred on this Court for doing complete justice in a cause. It cannot be doubted that there is a serious human rights aspect involved in such a proceeding because the prevailing corruption in public life, if permitted to continue unchecked, has ultimately the deleterious effect of eroding the Indian polity. As a result of the aforesaid discussion, we hereby direct as under:

Procedure for investigation laid down by Supreme Court of India:

I. CENTRAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (CBI) AND CENTRAL VIGILANCE COMMISSION (CVC)

1. The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) shall be given statutory status.
2. Selection for the post of Central Vigilance Commissioner shall be made by a Committee comprising the Prime Minister, Home Minister and the Leader of the Opposition from a panel of outstanding civil servants and others with impeccable integrity to be furnished by the Cabinet Secretary. The appointment shall be made by the President on the basis of the recommendations made by the Committee. This shall be done immediately.
3. The CVC shall be responsible for the efficient functioning of the CBI. While Government shall remain answerable for the CBI’s functioning, to introduce visible objectivity in the mechanism to be established for over viewing the CBI’s working, the CVC shall be entrusted with the responsibility of superintendence over the CBI’s functioning. The CBI shall report to the CVC about cases taken up by it for investigation; progress of investigations; cases in which chargesheets are filed and their progress. The CVC shall review the progress of all cases moved by the CBI for sanction of prosecution of public servants which are pending with competent authorities, specially those in which sanction has been delayed or refused.
4. The Central Government shall take all measures necessary to ensure that the CBI functions effectively and efficiently and is viewed as a non-partisan agency.
5. The CVC shall have a separate section in its Annual Report on the CBI’s functioning after the supervisory function is transferred to it.
6. Recommendations for appointment of the Director, CBI shall be made by a Committee headed by the Central Vigilance Commissioner with the Home Secretary and Secretary (Personnel) as members. The views of the incumbent Director shall be considered by the Committee for making the best choice. The Committee shall draw up a panel of IPS officers on the basis of their seniority, integrity, experience in investigation and anti – corruption work. The final selection shall be made by Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) from the panel recommended by the Selection Committee. If none among the panel is found suitable, the reasons the reasons thereof shall be recorded and the Committee asked to draw up a fresh panel.
7. The Director, CBI shall have a minimum tenure of two years, regardless of the date of his superannuation. This would ensure that an officer suitable in all respects is not ignored merely because he has less than two years to superannuate from the date of his appointment.
8. The transfer of an incumber Director, CBI in an extraordinary situation, including the need for him to take up a more important assignment, should have the approval of the Selection Committee.
9. The Director, CBI shall have full freedom for allocation of work within the agency as also for constituting teams for investigations. Any change made by the Director, CBI in the Head of an investigative team should be for cogent reasons and for improvement in investigation, the reasons being recorded.
10. Selection/extention of tenure of officers upto the level of Joint Director (JD) shall be decided by a Board comprising the central Vigilance Commissioner, Home Secretary and Secretary (Personnel) with the Director, CBI providing the necessary inputs. The extension of tenure or premature repatriation of officers upto the level of Joint Director shall be with final approval of the Board. Only cases pertaining to the appointment or extension of tenure of officers of the rank of Joint Director or above shall be referred to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) for decision.
11. Proposals for improvement of infrastructure, methods of investigation, etc. should be decided urgently. In order to strengthen CBI’s in-house expertise, professionals from the revenue, banking and security sectors should be inducted into the CBI.
12. The CBI Manual based on statutory provisions of the Cr. P.C. provides essential guidelines for the CBI’s functioning. It is imperative that the CBI adheres scrupulously to the provisions in the Manual in relation to its investigative functions, like raids, scizure and arrests. Any deviation from the established procedure should be viewed seriously and severe disciplinary action taken against the concerned officials.
13. The Director, CBI shall be responsible for ensuring the filing of chargesheets in courts within the stipulated time limits, and the matter should be kept under constant review by the Director, CBI
14. A document on CBI’s functioning should be published within three months to provide the general public with a feedback on investigations and information for redress of genuine grievances in a manner which does not compromise with the operational requirements of the CBI.
15. Time limit of three months for grant of sanction for prosecution must be strictly adhered to. However, additional time of one month may be allowed where consultation is required with the Attorney General (AG) or any other law officer in the AG’s office.
16. The Director, CBI should conduct regular appraisal of personnel to prevent corruption and/or inefficiency in the agency.

III. ENFORCEMENT DIRECTORATE

1. A Selection Committee headed by the Central Vigilance Commissioner and including the Home Secretary, Secretary (Personnel) and Revenue Secretary, shall prepare a panel for appointment of the Director, Enforcement Directorate. The appointment to the post of Director shall be made by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) from the panel recommended by the Selection Committee.
2. The Director, Enforcement Director like Director, CBI shall have a minimum tenure of two years. In his case also, premature transfer for any extraordinary reason should be approved by the aforesaid Selection Committee headed by the Central Vigilance commissioner.
3. In view of the importance of the post of Director, Enforcement Directorate, it shall be upgraded to that of a Additional Secretary/Special Secretary to the Government.
4. Officers of the Enforcement Directorate handling sensitive assignments shall be provided adequate security to enable them to discharge their functions fearlessly.
5. Extensions of tenure upto the level of Joint Director in the Enforcement Directorate should be decided by the said Committee headed by the Central Vigilance Commissioner.
6. There shall be no premature media publicity by the CBI/Enforcement Directorate.
7. Adjudication/commencement of prosecution shall be made by the enforcement Directorate within a period of one year.
8. The Director, Enforcement Directorate shall monitor and ensure speedy completion of investigations/adjudications and launching of prosecutions. Revenue Secretary must review their progress regularly.
9. For speedy conduct of investigations abroad, the procedure to approve filing of applications for Letters Rogatory shall be streamlined and, if necessary, Revenue Secretary authorised to grant the approval
10. A comprehensive circular shall be published by the Directorate to inform the public about the procedures/systems of its functioning for the sake of transparency.
11. In-house legal advice mechanism shall be strengthened by appointment of competent legal advisers in the CBI/Directorate of Enforcement.
12. The Annual Report of the Department of Revenue shall contain a detailed account on the working of the Enforcement Directorate.

III. NODAL AGENCY

1. A Nodal Agency headed by the Home Secretary with Member (Investigation), Central Board of Direct Taxes, Director General, Revenue Intelligence, Director, Enforcement and Director, CBI as members, shall be constituted for coordinated action in cases having politico-bureaucrat- criminal nexus.
2. The Nodal Agency shall meet at least once every month.
3. Working and efficacy of the Nodal Agency should be watched for about one year so as to improve it upon the basis of the experience gained within this period.

IV PROSECUTION AGENCY

1. A panel of competent lawyers of experience and impeccable reputation shall be prepared with the advice of the Attorney General Their services shall be utilised as Prosecuting Counsel in cases of significance. Even during the course of investigation of an offence, the advice of a lawyer chosen from the panel should be taken by the CBI/Enforcement Directorate.
2. Every prosecution which results in the discharge or acquittal of the accused must be reviewed by a lawyer on the panel and, on the basis of the opinion given, responsibility should be fixed for dereliction of duty, if any, of the concerned officer. In such cases, strict action should be taken against the officer found guilty of dereliction of duty.
3. The preparation of the panel of lawyers with approval of the Attorney General shall be completed within three months.
4. Steps shall be taken immediately for the constitution of an able and impartial agency comprising persons of unimpeachable integrity to perform functions akin to those of the Director of Prosecutions in U.K. On the constitution of such a body, the task of supervising prosecutions launched by the CBI/Enforcement Directorate shall be entrusted to it.
5. Till the constitution of the aforesaid body, Special Counsel shall be appointed for the conduct of important trials on the recommendation of the Attorney General or any other law officer designated by him.
The learned amicus curiae had urged us to issue directions for the appointment of an authority akin to the Special or Independent Counsel in the United States of America for the investigation of charges in politically sensitive matters and for the prosecution of those cases and to ensure that appointments to sensitive posts in the CBI and other enforcement agencies and transfers therefrom were not made by the political executive. We are of the view that the time for these drastic steps has not come. It is our hope that it never will, for we entertain the belief that the investigative agencies shall function far better now, having regard to all that has happened since these writ petition were admitted and to the directions which are contained in this judgment. The personnel of the enforcement agencies should not now lack the courage and independence to go about their task as they should, even where those to be investigated are prominent and powerful persons.

[Source: Vineet Narain Vs. Union of India. (Supreme Court of India)]

Comment: This is an elaborate procedure laid down for investigation. However the procedure works when the human beings follow the procedure with letter and spirit. But since the laying down of procedure, high functionaries in all departments above were found to be not diligently following the procedure. Many resigned due to this reason. It is wondered how the Jan Lokpal or Public Ombudsman, if created by legislation is going to work honestly. How honest persons of integrity will be appointed as Ombudsman if they could not be found for aforesaid mechanism?
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