By: Arindam Gautam
Every year in the last week of October or first week of November, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to create awareness among the public of the perils of corruption as well as to bring awareness on the importance of probity in public life organize a week-long Vigilance Awareness Week (VAW). During the rest of the year, the CVC monitors probity and transparency in the functioning of the Central Government departments as well as undertakings, but during this part of the year through the VAW programme, the CVC tries to get closer and bring awareness about CVC and its activities among people. The CVC also exhorts other Public Sector Undertakings to take such outreach programmes during this Vigilance Awareness Week (VAW) and almost all Central Government Undertakings comply with this directive of the CVC. A few years back the theme chosen by CVC was “Preventive Vigilance: A Tool for Good Governance”. This year the CVC has taken this one step further and has aptly chosen its theme: Vigilant India-Prosperous India.
When the theme was Preventive Vigilance, it was the organizations, who were asked to enhance transparency use technology, enhance automation and streamline rules and procedures. This year, the CVC exhorts the citizens to become vigilant and contribute to the prosperity of India. Indeed no technology can be successful unless the human mind is nurtured and supported towards an honest way of life and therefore the CVC deserves appreciation for choosing this theme. A vigilant and participatory citizenship is the sine qua non for a nation to prosper.
However, when it comes to corruption and malpractices, a common impediment is the reluctance of the public to report such wrongdoings. This reluctance stems from the fact that if they report such wrongdoings, they might be harmed in some way or the other. Indeed, there too have been instances when people who complained against wrongdoings by the high and the mighty have been victimized and, therefore, this legitimate ‘fear’ is not something totally unwarranted. Moreover the lack of requisite action on the complaints received too acts in a demoralizing way. The situation is far more demoralizing in Government undertakings where the outspoken and upright officers who point out the malpractices are harassed in varied ways. Therefore, the CVC in 2004 with the approval of the Union Government has passed the landmark Public Interest Disclosure and Protection of the Informer (PIDPI) resolution. Under the PIDPI resolution, if anyone makes a complaint before the CVC, the CVC takes the onus of keeping the name of the complainant confidential. All the complainant has to do is to give the text of his complaint without his name and address. A separate letter addressed to the Secretary, CVC should, however, be enclosed for the CVC to verify the credentials of the complainant as the CVC does not normally act on anonymous/pseudonymous complaints. The complaint should be in a closed/sealed envelope and mandatorily super scribed “Complaint under the Public Interest Disclosure” on the top left corner of the envelope for getting the required protection under the PIDPI resolution. The PIDPI resolution of the CVC is indeed a laudatory initiative and was long overdue. The biggest advantage of the PIDPI resolution is that a Government employee too, if he notices some wrongdoings in his organization, can also approach the CVC and his name is kept confidential. Previously government servants who reported malpractices and corruption in their own organization were charged with violation of Office code and were victimised. But under the PIDPI resolution such whistleblowers too receive their due protection. Till now several corrupt officers in central government undertakings have been brought to book by upright officers from the same organization using the PIDPI resolution. Just like the Right to Information Act (RTI) which has gone a long way in weeding out corruption and ensuring transparency in government dealings, the PIDPI resolution of the CVC if harnessed properly will go a long way in bringing transparency in the functioning of several hitherto obscure & shoddy dealings in the Government undertakings especially public sector undertakings. And therefore the PIDPI resolution of the CVC deserves widespread publicity.
Having said this, there are certain other facets to the PIDPI resolution. Unlike the RTI, there is no scope for second appeal under the PIDPI resolution. Whenever CVC receives any complaint regarding an organization, it forwards the complaint to the Chief Vigilance Office (CVO) of that organization and the report filed by the CVO is accepted by the CVC as final. There is no scope for second appeal. Secondly, the CVC clearly mentions that the Commission will take strong action against those who make vexatious/motivated complaints. This clause of the PIDPI resolution runs counter to the pronouncement of Supreme Court in the state of Haryana Vs Bhajan Lal case where the court inter alia has categorically stated that motive or intention behind a complaint is not important. If there is substantive evidence in the complaint the courts will take cognizance regardless of the antecedents of the complainant. One hopes that with the PIDPI resolution gaining maturity the CVC would address these issues.
Corruption is a vice and the fact that being vigilant can scale it down cannot be gainsaid. All the stakeholders must come forward. The people must get rid of the fear factor utilize the PIDPI resolution to the fullest. The CVC on its part too should try to address the above drawbacks in PIDPI resolution. CVC should try to do justice to the complaints it receives and ensure protection of the whistleblowers. Only then we can envisage a new India where the citizens will be proactive to participate in vigilant activities and thus usher in the prosperity of the nation. One hopes that this year the CVC and various central government undertakings while observing Vigilance Awareness week lay adequate thrust on creating awareness among the masses regarding the Public Interest Disclosure and Protection of the Informer (PIDPI) resolution of the CVC and its usage. (Published on the occasion of Vigilance Awareness Week)