M A I N   N E W S

Punjab clips wings of Vigilance Bureau
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 30
The sweeping powers enjoyed by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau have been done away with. The Punjab Government has issued instructions to ‘‘redefine’’ the role of the bureau and has reduced it to a ‘‘toothless tiger’’. The Chief Secretary, who is also the Secretary, Vigilance, will now examine all complaints, including fresh complaints, and refer the matter to a committee for a final decision.

The bureau will not even register an enquiry or an FIR without the recommendation of a special committee. Two such committees are to be constituted soon. All matters to decide the course of action - to register a case, to order a departmental enquiry or let off the person -- will now be dealt by the two committees, says a letter of the Government issued last week.

One such committee will be headed by the Chief Secretary and will look into complaints/cases against gazetted officers, Chairmen of boards and corporations, executive officers in panchayati raj, local bodies, municipal corporations and improvement trusts. The second committee will deal with cases relating to non-gazetted officials and those holding similar rank in local bodies. Both committees have less than five people on board and formation will be on the basis of rank. Well placed sources in the Government confirmed the developments to The Tribune and said ‘‘redefining’’ the role of the bureau was long overdue.

The decision to redefine the functioning of the bureau has come about after the Punjab and Haryana High Court vacated a stay it had imposed on an order of the Government dated June 2000. In that order the then Chief Secretary, Mr R.S. Mann, had laid down what all the Vigilance Bureau was supposed to do before registering a case and how it was supposed to act at the advice of the committee. The same had been contested in court which had granted a stay. The Chief Secretary in his latest circular has asked the DGP, Vigilance, Mohd Izhar Alam, to comply with the June 2000 orders that were held in abeyance.

As per those orders, a copy of which is available with The Tribune, the Vigilance Bureau has been asked to confine itself to enquiring into acquisition of disproportionate assets; allegations of corruption and allegations of moral turpitude. However, it empowers the committees to even seek the comments of the accused and also allow a personal hearing to the accused. The committee will tell the bureau to register an enquiry or an FIR. The committee can take suo moto cognizance of any matter and ask the bureau to register an enquiry or an FIR.

In matters where the Vigilance Bureau lays a trap to nab a person red handed while accepting a bribe, it shall obtain prior permission if the person concerned is a Class I officer. And none of the witnesses in such cases should have any enquiry or complaints pending against them.

In the case of surprise checking the bureau will have to take into confidence the Deputy Commissioner, who will depute a person to accompany the team. In any case of disproportionate assets the Vigilance Bureau can look into it suo moto and without a formal reference from the Administrative Secretary of that department.

Earlier, all such powers were with the DGP, Vigilance. Sources in the police feel that the Government should not have watered down the functioning of the bureau.

It may be mentioned the Vigilance Bureau shot into limelight when it registered cases of corruption against former Chief Minister, Mr Parkash Singh Badal, several ministers of his Cabinet and former Chairman of the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC). 




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