Vittal Leaves Behind Lasting Imprint, Wishes Could Do More

New Delhi, Aug 25: | Updated: Aug 26 2002, 05:30am hrs
The outgoing central vigilance commissioner (CVC) N Vittal has expressed the hope that a public interest litigation some day would seek Supreme Court (SC) intervention to break the nexus between the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats, and appointments to the sensitive posts in the government would be made only through neutral committees, on the lines of the SC directive on the selection of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director. Sensitive posts, as Mr Vittal defines them, are those with scope for corruption. The government should identify all such posts and neutral committees can draw up a panel of three candidates. One of those could be appointed, with no transfer for at least three years. Mr Vittals tenure ends next week, and he will be succeeded by current Planning Commission secretary P Shankar. Despite a significant list of achievements that he can take pride in, Mr Vittal has one regret a long string of unfinished agenda, especially legislations that have yet to come in as law in spite of his best efforts. The unfinished agenda includes a law to protect the whistle-blower (the Public Disclosures Bill); the Benami Transactions Act that after 14 long years still awaits a provision enabling the confiscation of benami property and a provision in the Money Laundering Act to include the excise, sales tax, income-tax and customs departments to reduce the scope for corruption and money laundering, the CVC said in a free-wheeling interview to FE.

He has also been advocating scrapping of the 211 exemptions in the Income-tax Act. A zero-exemption I-T Act, no tax on income up to Rs 5 lakh per annum and 20 per cent flat tax thereafter will bring down the scope for corruption and augment government revenue, he believes.

He is also in favour of reducing the scope for discretion in legislations, like the Customs and Excise Acts. Then cases like Kit Kat will not happen, he asserts, where somebody ruled that it was a chocolate in a biscuit. If the company benefits because it is a biscuit and the government loses revenue, the CVC cannot take action because the officer says he is using his quasi-discretionary powers.

He also points to the legislation pending since 1999 on forfeiture of the property of corrupt public servants. He has sent copies of the legislation to all state governments. Half-a-dozen chief ministers have acknowledged it, he says, but is not aware of any further action.