Petition seeking timely and transparent appointments to the Central Vigilance Commission
Common Cause filed a petition for timely and transparent appointments to the Central Vigilance Commission. Non-appointment of the Commissioners for extended periods of time without any transparency and frustrating the citizen's right to information, obstructing them from demanding accountability from the executive is in violation of rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 19, & 21 of the Constitution of India as well as the scheme and object of the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003.
Section 3 of the CVC Act, 2003, provides for the constitution of the Commission and Clause 2 thereof provides that the Commission shall consist of a Central Vigilance Commissioner as Chairperson and not more than two Vigilance Commissioners as Members. Since June 24, 2021, only one commissioner is discharging the functions of the entire Commission, however, the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003 is clearly designed with the expectation that a multi-member body will perform the functions.
The Apex Court directed in Vineet Narain v. Union of India (1998) that CVC shall be a statutory body and the statutory status was conferred on the CVC through an ordinance in 1999, making it a multi-member Commission headed by the Central Vigilance Commissioner. In 2003, the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003 came into being. In Centre for PIL v. Union of India, (2011), it was held that all appointments to the Commission were to be made by the President on the recommendation of a committee consisting of the Prime Minister, Minister of Home Affairs, & Leader of Opposition in the House of the People alongside other directions to ensure the transparency and the integrity of CVC. Additionally, in Anjali Bhardwaj v. Union of India (2019), relating to appointments to the Central Information Commission and the State Information Commissions, the Supreme Court has directed that even while the selection process is underway, all relevant information pertaining to the selection must be put in the public domain.
Anticipating a vacancy that was due to arise in October of 2020, vide advertisement dated 17.07.2020, the Department of Personnel & Training (hereinafter, ‘DoPT’), had invited applications for filling the post of one Vigilance Commissioner with the last date of application being 17.08.2020. Similarly, anticipating vacancy that was due to arise in June of 2021, vide advertisement dated 04.05.2021, DoPT had invited applications for filing the post of the Central Vigilance Commissioner with the last date of application being 07.06.2021. However, till date no appointments have been made pursuant to these advertisements yet. Instead, vide notification dated 24.06.2021, the lone remaining Vigilance Commissioner, Suresh N. Patel, has been authorized “to act as the Central Vigilance Commissioner...until the appointment of the Central Vigilance Commissioner.” RTI replies dated 22.09.2021 outrightly refused to give any information with respect to the appointment process that has been set in motion months ago with the issuance of advertisements for the two posts except for providing a copy of the advertisement itself and stating that the selection process is underway.
On September 9, 2022, Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul & Abhay S Oka heard the petitioner that there is only acting Chief Vigilance Commissioner at present so there is no CVC and two post of Members are also vacant. In addition, Dasti was permitted.