Day 57 – Q 5.The ultimate loyalty of public officials must be to the public interests of their country as expressed through the democratic institutions of government. Elucidate.
5. The ultimate loyalty of public officials must be to the public interests of their country as expressed through the democratic institutions of government. Elucidate.
सार्वजनिक अधिकारियों की अंतिम निष्ठा सरकार के लोकतांत्रिक संस्थानों के माध्यम से व्यक्त किए गए उनके देश के सार्वजनिक हितों के लिए होनी चाहिए। स्पष्ट करें।
The Civil service was envisioned by Ambedkar and Sardar Patel in India as a permanent civil service entrusted with the responsibility of keeping the unity, integrity and Constitutional values intact where governance was considered as all about maintaining a balance between different interests and maximising opportunities for public interest in the country.
- According to Weber, a bureaucratic official is appointed to his or her position on the basis of merit and conduct, he exercises the authority delegated to him in accordance with impersonal rules, and his or her loyalty is enlisted on behalf of the faithful execution of his official duties.
- A public service whose members are appointed and promoted based on merit will be far less susceptible to corruption than one based predominantly on political and personal connections.
- In a meritocracy, staff advances on the basis of their performance and they owe their positions, at least in part, to the public they serve. Where positions have been obtained through powerful connections, the loyalty is to the connection, not to the institution to which the person has been appointed.
- An official must exercise his judgment and his skills, but his duty is to place these at the service of a higher authority, and therefore he is responsible only for the impartial execution of assigned tasks. Furthermore, he must sacrifice his or her personal judgment if it runs counter to his or her official duties.
- The public official has the duty to serve loyally the lawfully constituted national, local or regional authority, and he/she is expected to be honest, impartial and efficient and to perform his or her duties to the best of his or her ability with skill, fairness and understanding, having regard only for the public interest.
- The loyalty of the public service to its political masters is grounded on the obligation of the ministers in parliamentary democracies to be answerable and responsible to the legislature (ministerial responsibility to parliament). It is only by this means that the ministers, being representatives of the people of the nation, may hold the public service too accountable to the will of the people and public interest.
- It is then the fundamental ethical duty of the civil servants, in pluralistic parliamentary democracies, to subordinate themselves to political authority, to carry out all ‘orders’ from the ‘top’, as long as they are in conformity with the law of the land.
- It also needs to be emphasized that this does not amount to and cannot be taken to mean politicisation of public services and, more specifically, does not give ‘licence’ to the political masters to pass ‘orders’ contrary to law / rules / public interest, and expect the public servant to carry them out blindly; because that would undermine the instrumental value of the executive branch of the government and administration.
- In fact, in the early years of India’s independence, there were several IAS officers across the country who felt that the IAS was not a career in the usual sense but an instrument to bring in social transformation of the country.
- For example, in 1978, when the then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Shri Chenna Reddy, directed Shri S. R Sankaran, the Secretary of the Social Welfare Department, to not implement the Bonded Labour Abolition Act of 1976, the Secretary indicated his inability as he was duty bound to implement an Act passed by the Parliament. It is such adherence to the values, principles and laws that enabled the civil service to provide stability and bring in social reform even in very turbulent times like the Emergency.
- When Sardar Patel argued that there is no substitute to the civil servants in terms of loyalty and hard work, he did not at all imply loyalty to the political party but loyalty to the Constitution from where the civil service derives its powers and relevance.
- In the same vein, the public servants would have to show a spirit of ‘neutrality ’ in their official capacity and dealings, as members of the administrative infrastructure of the State vis-à-vis partisan politics, and keep at bay their own personal preferences in the performance of their duties and responsibilities.
- The ultimate responsibility for the nature and shape of policy is that of the Minister and the political executive. They can overrule, amend, modify or approve the proposals. Public officials can at best reiterate the implications of ‘bad policy’, advise and try to convince, but cannot question the final decision. They have to carry out the policy to the best of their ability. This is due to the fact that the architecture of governance in India is based on a political executive that is elected by the people of the country and a permanent civil service that is expected to serve the duly elected government.
In rapidly changing society, there is a need of good public administration with the public servants who would help in assuring in ideals of ‘New India’ where public officials would empower common citizens through work emphasising public interests in all their endeavours.