New Delhi, August 2 (IANS): Two important institutions – the Law Commission and the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) – have been operating without staff at the highest level for some time now.
The Law Commission, which is mandated to make recommendations to the government on complex legal issues impacting society, has been without a chair since August 2018. Although on February 19, 2020, the Center approved the constitution of the Twenty-Second Law Commission, but has not yet appointed the chairman and members.
Similarly, the CVC, which should have been an autonomous body composed of three members according to the provisions of the 2003 law on central vigilance, operates with a single central commissioner of vigilance.
These institutions play an important role in maintaining the checks and balances over elected governments and help to further strengthen the democratic ethos. These institutional pillars contribute to the functioning of a vast and complex democracy.
On July 27 this year, the Supreme Court agreed to consider registering to hear a PIL, filed by lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay in 2020, asking the central government to declare the Law Commission a “statutory body”. and to appoint the chairman and members. at the panel.
Upadhyay argued in the Supreme Court that the mandate of the 21st Law Commission ended on August 31, 2018 and that the government has still not extended the term of its chairman and members, nor notified the 22nd Commission of the right. In December last year, the Center told the court that the appointment of the members of the Law Commission of India and its chairman was under discussion with the authorities concerned, and that no proposal was forthcoming. under consideration to make it a statutory body.
The Center called the PIL frivolous and baseless and added that the petitioner raised an issue that does not fall under the separation of powers doctrine. The government further added that it is seized of the matter in connection with the appointment of the President and members of the Commission.
For the CVC, the story was not much different from that of the Law Commission. The commission last operated as a three-member body, a chairperson and two members, in October 2020.
The CVC Annual Report for 2002 states: “The Central Vigilance Commissioner and Vigilance Commissioners are appointed for a term of four years from the date on which they take office or until the age of sixty -five years, whichever comes first Sanjay Kothari, IAS (Retd.) joined as Central Vigilance Commissioner on April 24, 2020 and Suresh N. Patel, MD and CEO (Retd.) Andhra Bank joined as Vigilance Commissioner on 29 April 2020. Sharad Kumar, IPS (Retd.), Vigilance Commissioner post dismissed on 27.10.2020. A post of Vigilance Commissioner has been vacant since then.”
Kothari retired in June 2021. Since then, the two Vigilance Commissioner positions have been vacant. Patel, who was a banker, remains the sole commissioner.
The CVC plays an important role in appointing the heads of several central government departments and agencies. It conducts an investigation or recommends an investigation for referral by the government, and also investigates complaints against government officials.
The Central Vigilance Commission (Amendment) Bill 2021 was passed earlier this year. The bill sought to extend the term of the Director of the Enforcement Branch, but it did not deal with the tenure of commissioners or the appointment of commissioners.