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Friday, October 23, 2020

Punjab Cabinet nod for reformation of Vigilance Commission, 13 years after it was scrapped

The commission was scrapped by the Akalis in March 2007, soon after they came to power in the state, despite massive protests by Congress, which was then in Opposition.

By: Express News Service | Chandigarh | September 24, 2020 12:49:05 am
Farm Bills 2020, farmers protests, india farmers protest, amarinder singh on farm bills, indian expressPunjab CM Amarinder Singh. (File Photo)

THE PUNJAB Cabinet on Wednesday gave the go-ahead for the establishment of a Vigilance Commission, over 13 years after the former SAD-BJP government in the state scrapped it.

The government said the commission would bring about more transparency and check corruption among public servants. “The Cabinet approved establishment of a multi-member Vigilance Commission, in line with the vision of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who had steered the constitution of a similar commission back in 2006,” it said in a statement.

The commission was scrapped by the Akalis in March 2007, soon after they came to power in the state, despite massive protests by Congress, which was then in Opposition.

As per The Punjab State Vigilance Commission Ordinance, 2020, the commission will be set up as an independent body to exercise more effective superintendence over the functioning of Vigilance Bureau and all departments of the government, in order to provide clean, fair and transparent administration. It will comprise a chairman with two members, with a term of five years. The government has only a year and three months left effectively as the state will go to elections in early 2022. Last time, in 2017, the code of conduct had come into play in January itself.

The Punjab State Vigilance Commission (Ordinance) Bill, 2020, will be tabled in the next Assembly session. “The Bill provides for the constitution of the commission, will effectively exercise superintendence and control over the functioning of Vigilance Bureau and other departments of the state government.”

Amarinder has been empowered to make any changes in the ordinance once drafted by the Law Remembrance, in order to ensure the creation of a fool-proof mechanism to look into all issues in detail and deliver justice in all fairness, the government statement said.

“The Punjab State Vigilance Commission shall review the progress of investigations conducted by the Vigilance Bureau and cases of prosecution sanction pending with various departments of the government. The Vigilance Commission shall tender advice to the various departments of the government, and other investigations on vigilance matters. It has been empowered to give directions to the Vigilance Bureau for discharging the responsibility entrusted to it. It has also been empowered to inquire or cause an inquiry/investigation to be made in respect of allegations made under the Prevention of Corruption Act and other relevant offences against public servants,” it added.

The spokesperson said the commission will consist of the state’s chief vigilance commissioner as chairperson, to be appointed from among those persons who have been or are serving as judge of a High Court or an officer in the rank and pay scale of secretary to Government of India.

Two vigilance commissioners will be appointed as members from among persons who have been or are in an all India service, in any civil service of the Union of State or in a civil post under the Union or State having expertise and experience in matters relating to vigilance, policy making, administration (including police administration), finance (including insurance and banking law) in the rank and pay scale of the additional secretary to the Government of India or the financial commissioner of the State. Both the vigilance commissioners shall not belong to the same service or have exactly similar experience.

These appointments shall be made on the recommendations of a committee chaired by the Chief Minister with Punjab Vidhan Sabha Speaker, and the senior-most minister of the Council of Ministers (after the CM) as its members.

A Central Vigilance Commission is established under the Central Vigilance Commission Act 2003 to enquire or cause to enquire into offenses alleged to have been committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988, by certain categories of public servants of the central government, corporations established by or under any Central Act etc. and to exercise superintendence over the functioning of Central Bureau of Investigation. However, there is at present no such body under the state government.

They think they will protect them after new govt. is formed: SAD

Dr Daljit Singh Cheema, spokesperson of SAD said, “The High Court ordering CBI inquiry into illegal sand mining and Enforcement Directorate taking up probe into illicit liquor case stood as testimony that the government was neck deep in corruption. They wanted to set up a body thinking it could protect them after the formation of the new government.”

He further said that the government was “already bankrupt” and it was setting up such commissions by burdening the state exchequer further. “Where is the point in setting up a commission at this time?” he asked.

Rules for police complaints authority

The Cabinet also approved rules for governing conduct of business of the Punjab State Police Complaints Authority, 2020, set up earlier this year to probe allegations of serious misconduct against police officers of the rank of senior superintendent of police/deputy commissioner and above.

Section 54-F of the amended Punjab Police Act, 2007, stipulates that the Authority shall make rules for the conduct of its business and that of the Divisional Police Complaints Authorities, with the approval of the state government.

The Punjab Police Act, 2007, was notified on February 5, 2008, in compliance with directions of Supreme Court, as contained in its judgment of September 22, 2006, in the case of Parkash Singh and Ors. Vs. Union of India & Ors.

A government statement said, “The proviso of section 54 of the original (un-amended) Punjab Police Act, 2007 envisages that the state government may, by notification, constitute Police Complaints Authorities at the state as well as district level. The state government, vide a notification dated August 29, 2014, had, however, further amended Section 54 of the Punjab Police Act, 2007 and added that provisions for constitution of Police Complaints Authorities at state and divisional level, along with terms of office of the chairperson and members and their functions.”

On January 23 this year, the Amarinder government had, under the amended section, constituted the State Police Complaints Authority, with Dr N S Kalsi (retd.) as chairperson.

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