Why ex-bureaucrats speak up

Source: The Indian Express

Relevance: The new government rules restrict free speech and impact the transparency and accountability of the government.


The new government rules restrict the free speech of retired bureaucrats.

About the new rules:
  1. The central government recently prohibits officers who retired from 25 critical organisations not to publish anything without taking prior clearance from the government.
  2. Further, the order also bans discussions on “the domain of the organisation”.
  3. The order also put restrictions is on revealing any “expertise or knowledge gained by virtue of working in that organisation”.
  4. The notification also amends the central pension rules, enabling the government to withhold the pension of those who defy.
Challenges with the government restrictions:
  • The rules are ambiguous. For example, “expertise or knowledge gained” is prone to conflicting interpretations among individuals.
  • Pension is not a reward but a binding obligation. The rules insist on “future good conduct” as a “condition of every grant of pension and its continuance.” But, the government cannot withhold the pension as the rule itself mention pension as a “claimed as a right”.
    • The Courts also historically ruled in favour of the pensioner. For instance, In Dr Hira Lal v. State of Bihar case, the court mentioned “that the right to pension cannot be taken away by a mere executive fiat or administrative instruction. An employee earns these benefits by virtue of his long, continuous, faithful and unblemished service”.
  • Not a national security threat, instead, an act of Sedition: The government has to act maturely and distinguish between genuine protests and sedition. If a question arises, then it has to be decided by the courts. These orders were meant for colonial times or even for the late 20th century. For example, One need not reveal information, with current advancements in technology, the enemy’s satellite can see not only moving trucks but also their number plates as well.
  • The government cannot force a code of conduct for such large numbers of retired officials to speak out against its policies. Such as secretaries, ambassadors, the Directors-General of police and others. Further, the rules make the retired officials speak in the government’s favour.
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