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Coal scam: SC says CVC just a mute spectator

"We find that except for getting reports and progress reports of investigation there is nothing in your (CVC) hand," says SC.

CVC Pradeep Kumar after taking oath at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi. (PTI) CVC Pradeep Kumar after taking oath at the Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi. (PTI)

“Is Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) just a mute spectator”, the Supreme Court on Monday said during a hearing in the Coalgate case. The court made the observation when it was told that the role of the CVC was “limited” and it cannot give any specific direction or interfere with CBI inquiry or investigation in any manner.

“We find that except for getting reports and progress reports of investigation there is nothing in your (CVC) hand,” a bench headed by justice R M Lodha said and added that “after investigation is done the report is submitted but the question is that the role of the CVC is just of a mute spectator”.

“What purpose is then served by this,” the bench, also comprising justices M B Lokur and Kurian Joseph, said. The remarks were made by bench when it was hearing reg issue on scope of Section 8 of the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003, particularly clauses (a), (b) and (e) of Sub-Section (1)  and Section 4 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act 1946 by which the CBI is regulated.

These provisions of CVC Act deal with the issue of investigation. The apex court, which is monitoring the investigation into the Coalgate, on February 10 had sought response of the CVC on its scope and power being the superintending authority over the functioning of the CBI.

Senior advocate Anil Divan, appearing for the CVC, gave the perception of the Commission on its scope and power and CBI’s counsel Amarender Sharan said that investigating authority has to be independent and code of criminal procedure (CrPC) and CBI manual contemplates its superintendence.

“The role of CVC in matter of superintendence and review of progress of investigation under the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act with CBI is of an arm’s length relationship without interfering with investigation in any particular case,” Divan said.

“The CVC is not empowered to give any specific direction or to interfere in the inquiry or investigation in any manner in a particular case,” he said. However, advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO Common Cause, said there is a need to give a “purposive” interpretation on the scope and power of the CVC otherwise “are we not making mockery of the CVC”.

Sharan elaborated that CVC is not a “police officer” and “even the charge sheet cannot be rooted through the CVC” and the whole idea is to keep it under its bound by way of receiving reports and exercising disciplinary power. Further, CBI doesn’t take directions from the executive, he said.

However, during the hearing it was clarified that in the 2G spectrum allocation scam, since the probe was being monitored by the apex court, status reports were vetted by the CVC with its comments before being presented in the court. The CVC in its response said, “once jurisdiction is conferred on CBI to investigate, power of investigations are governed by statutory provisions and they cannot be stopped or curtailed by any executive instructions issued under Section 4(1).”

Divan cited the English case decided by Lord Denning which clearly spells out the duty of police officers to act independently without interference and also referred to Vineet Narain judgement of the apex court which said the power of superintendence of CVC was further discussed in it.

“In this connection taking note of the above judgement, a proviso has been added to Section 8 (1)(b) that the Commission shall not exercise powers in such a manner so as to require DSPE to investigate or dispose of any case in a particular manner,” the CVC said.

“The functions and powers of CVC are limited by this proviso. This is in line with the Vineet Narain judgement and has to be read with the new Section 4 of DSPE Act. Under Section 4(1) of the amended DSPE Act, the power of superintendence in cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 has been conferred on CVC while the power of superintendence in all other matters and administration of Police Establishment is vested with central government and the Director, CBI, respectively,” the CVC’s response said. “In other words, for non-PC Act cases and offences, the superintendence does not vest in the CVC,” it said.

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