Former CVC Chowdary Escapes Legal Dragnet in Corruption Cases

K V Chowdary with an Indian Minister Dr. Jitendra Singh while releasing the Vigilance Manual 2017 (file photo). Courtesy: CVC
K V Chowdary with an Indian Minister Dr. Jitendra Singh while releasing the Vigilance Manual 2017 (file photo). Courtesy: CVC

Chowdhary was gifted the post of CVC in 2015 for his role in protecting Modi unscrupulously. The new CVC Sanjay Kothari who was handpicked in April 2020 seems to be equally notorious.

By Rakesh Raman

Despite a number of corruption complaints against the former Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) K V Chowdary, he goes scot-free because there is no specific law to prosecute him. According to an RTI reply, four complaints were filed against Chowdary between January 2014 to August 2020.

Ironically, this case has been reported when the government’s anti-corruption department Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) is celebrating a Vigilance Awareness Week, which is observed in India every year from 27th October to 2nd November.

According to a media report, headlined, “Absence of law makes this graft-tainted ex-CVC immune from penal action,” the RTI reply mentions the absence of guidelines to handle complaints of corruption and other misconduct against the CVC and vigilance commissioners.

According to the report, the RTI application was filed to the Union Ministry of Personnel, PG & Pensions, Department of Personnel & Training by Sanjiv Chaturvedi, a Magsaysay Award winner (2015) and Indian Forest Services officer of 2002 batch.

In response to Chaturvedi’s RTI query on former graft-accused CVC Chowdary, the reply dated September 28, 2020 by the Union Ministry also mentions that the ‘grievances’ against the CVC have been ‘forwarded’ to the secretary, Central Vigilance Commission for ‘appropriate action’.

Chaturvedi was posted as chief vigilance officer of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, from July 2012 to August 2014. Among other complaints, he mentioned that the then CVC Chowdary had in 2016 decided to close the case related to corruption in Rs 7,000-crore infrastructure work in the AIIMS by going against the findings of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Chowdary was the CVC from June 2015 to June 2019 and joined Reliance as an independent director after his retirement. He was hired as additional director on the board of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) led by Mukesh Ambani. It was a kind of reward for him, as he had stopped corruption investigations against India’s Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi.

Mukesh Ambani is a close capitalist friend of Modi, who has been embroiled in multiple corruption scandals. As the CVC of India, Chowdary intervened to get all investigations against Modi dropped.

In the $4-billion Rafale corruption case – in which Modi was the prime accused – Chowdary ignored the complaints and the case never reached the investigation level.

It is alleged that Modi – who is a public servant – misused his position as PM of India to give undue benefit in Rafale deal to his close associate Anil Ambani who is the Chairman of Reliance ADA group of companies and brother of Mukesh Ambani.

When the complaint reached India’s top investigating agency Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Chowdary conspired to get CBI director Alok Verma removed from his position surreptitiously.

The New York Times (NYT), the world’s top newspaper based in the U.S., said in its article that Modi’s opaque arms deal has raised some serious questions. The article headlined “With ‘Fishy’ Jet Deal, India’s Opposition Finally Lands a Blow on Modi” appeared in NYT.

It raised questions such as why Modi renegotiated a deal for 36 fighter jets and why a company run by a wealthy family (Ambani family) was chosen to participate in the deal while it had no experience of building jets. The NYT article also asked why the costs of the planes seemed to jump so much and why Modi is not sharing more details on the Rafale deal.

Earlier, as the chairperson of the Central Board of Direct Taxation (CBDT), Chowdary saved Modi in the Birla-Sahara corruption case. Under Chowdary, the CBDT was investigating into the Birla-Sahara papers that allegedly indicated that Modi accepted bribes in excess of Rs. 55 crore during his tenure as the chief minister of Gujarat.

Reports also suggest that the former CBI director Ranjit Sinha had also investigated Chowdary’s role in a high-profile investment fraud case, known as the Stock Guru scheme.

When Modi became the PM of India in 2014, Chowdhary was gifted the post of CVC in 2015 for his role in protecting Modi unscrupulously. However, his selection was challenged in the Supreme Court for his controversial roles in corruption and other cases.

But a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra – who is also believed to be close to Modi – dismissed the case and Chowdhary was appointed the CVC. The less said about the Indian courts, the better.

The Congress party in India – which led the charge against Modi’s alleged corruption in Rafale deal – had demanded the removal of Chowdary from the CVC position, accusing him of acting as “a vigilant slave” of the Modi government.

“Till now we had heard the CBI is a ‘caged parrot’, now we have a new vigilant slave of government who is acting as collaborator for violating the Constitution,” said Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi, adding that Congress seeks immediate removal of Chowdary.

Under Chowdary’s tenure as the CVC, bureaucratic and political corruption increased manifold in India. The new CVC Sanjay Kothari who was handpicked in April 2020 seems to be equally notorious. He is ignoring corruption complaints and sitting like a parasite, while corruption is so rampant in all parts of India that it has become a non-issue in the government circles.

Now people are concerned that if the anti-corruption bureaucrats are corrupt, then corruption cannot be removed from India.

By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of a humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society.

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Rakesh Raman