Actions that corrode the steel frame of India

News: Recently, a group of retired civil servants’ known as the Constitutional Conduct Group (CCG) sent an ‘open letter’ to the Prime Minister. They appealed for an end to the politics of hate and violence against minorities, particularly Muslims. However, the allegations were rejected by another group of civil servants known as the Concerned Citizens (CC).

These developments have brought in the debate on the conduct of Civil Servants.

How should the civil servants behave?

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel created independent India’s civil services. At that time, the administration worked with neutrality, and without favoritism.

The police and magistracy, judicial courts and other regulatory agencies (Not politicians) are legally authorised and empowered to take preventive action against potential troublemakers. They are the real enforcers of the laws relating to criminal, economic and other offences, and maintain public order.

Civil servants should work with political neutrality. They must have independence of thought and action. They should give honest and objective advice; and also speak truth to power.

In mature democracies, public officials are expected to discharge their constitutional and legal responsibilities with honesty, integrity and their own conscience.

India’s permanent civil service with political neutrality is patterned on the English constitutional model. Therefore, India needs to learn a lesson from the British Case.

In Britain, a career civil servant investigated the case of flouting of lockdown regulations by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Chancellor of Exchequer. The investigation found PM and FM guilty of violations of the lockdown regulations in force. The public and the political establishment accepted the integrity of the investigation exercise. Both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of Exchequer were penalized for the violation of regulations.

What are the issues in the civil services in India?

There has been a deterioration in standards of civil services since the National Emergency in 1975. There has been a decline in adherence to political neutrality. Now, there are frequent allegations that local officers take political sides in a conflict

The politicians serve their personal and party interests, and ambitious officials work on the terms and conditions of political masters. This has led to a dilution of standards and creating a favorable condition for both political and bureaucratic corruption.

The politicians reward a compliant bureaucrat by offering prized and lucrative assignments to the bureaucrats. In case the bureaucrats do not follow the lines or diktats, the civil servants are punished and placed in an inconvenient position.

The protection and safeguards in Article 311 of the Constitution have been found to be inadequate.

Way Forward

B.R. Ambedkar advocated that Constitutional morality is not a natural sentiment, it has to be cultivated.

Source: The post is based on an article “Actions that corrode the steel frame of India” published in the “The Hindu” on 14th May 2022.

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