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Second representation regarding amendments in conduct rules
Subject- Suggestions made as regards certain Amendments in Conduct Rules as per the need of the times
Kindly refer to my Letter No- AT /Conduct/01 Dated- 19/10/2012 and 19/11/2012 where in the wake of Haryana cadre IAS officer Sri Ashok Khemka incidence I, Amitabh Thakur, an IPS officer from UP Cadre (1992 batch) wrote in my individual capacity as a citizen of India as regards certain amendments proposed in the Conduct Rules.
Now with the recent happenings related with what Sri R P Singh, retired Indian Audit and Accounts Service (IA&AS) officer working then as D-G, Post and Telecommunications at CAG office, stated to the Indian Express newspaper in his telephonic interview published on 23/11/2012 and reiterated subsequently through many newspapers and TV channels making news all over the country, my point once again gets buttressed. I quote some of the relevant statements quoted by the Indian Express regarding Sri R P Singh’s supposed revelation-
I got to know from my team members that CAG officials including senior CAG officials from headquarters went to the PAC chairman’s residence and assisted him in preparing the PAC report. I cannot say with certainty what exactly transpired at the meeting.
This was not my report. It was CAG’s (the institution’s) report. What can I do as a subordinate when the CAG (Vinod Rai) has issued written instructions on how he wants the report? I sent a report which calculated a loss of Rs 2,645 crore. This was on May 31, 2010. After this my audit team was attached with CAG headquarters under Deputy CAG Rekha Gupta. I was not involved in the inclusion of auditing the Ministry of Finance. In July 2010, I was sent a heavily revised report, and asked to issue (it) to the Ministry of Finance and Department of Telecommunication. There was little I could do when I got a written instruction.
I wrote a letter to Rekha Gupta as early as in February 2010 seeking guidance on the preparation of audit guidelines, and subsequently reminded headquarters. However, I never got a reply
I wrote a few letters to Rekha Gupta with a copy to CAG (Rai), explaining my views on the audit process and the calculation of loss among other details, which I was not approving. But I never had direct interaction with CAG (Rai) on this matter
These statements of Sri Singh made a wide uproar all through the Nation and have been making headlines since then. It has resulted into accusations and counter-accusations and hectic activities on various fronts. I have no authority, knowledge or locus-standi to comment upon any of these facts nor am I making any any comments regarding the contents of what Sri Singh has said. My purpose here is to reemphasize the points I had made in my previous letters regarding the immense need to suitably amend the various service conduct rules as regards the embargo put upon the government servants about their interacting with the Media.
Presently the government servants have been prevented from interacting with Media and stating facts and truth before them in majority of the circumstances. In the world of transparency and accountability, this hardly seems to make sense. Instead the current situation seems to warrant that more and more public servants come in the open and iterate facts before the people as and when they feel like. This becomes more important in cases related with corruption, corrupt and inappropriate acts and conducts etc, particularly considering the wide influence of Media on the overall system and functioning. While a matter placed on files or stated to a senior functionary orally is limited only to a handful of persons who might try to ignore or overlook it to serve their own purpose, if a matter comes on full Media glare, it gains a much larger momentum and the possibility of any wrongdoing gets drastically reduced. This being the power of Media, it seems logical for the Government to acknowledge it and to give the authority to all the government servants to use this extremely powerful tool for the positive purpose of eliminating wrong-doings, exposing corrupt people and corrupt practices and set motion for a more transparent and accountable governance. It seems that we shall not prima-facie feel jittery about its misuse because if a government employee tries to misuse it or tries to falsely implicate or malign his fellow employees, the Government as the employer will always have the power and authority to take the employee to task for his unsubstantiated and false statements.
If for an instance we take that what Sri R K Singh is saying is correct then had it not been more useful and more relevant if he had the authority and independence to state the same before the Media when he was still in the service? Had it not served more purpose and had it not checked the alleged wrong-doing?
I would like to emphasize that Sri Singh is not the sole retired bureaucrat who erupted after his retirement, with any alleged damage already done. There are hundreds of examples of retired senior bureaucrats coming up with startling revelations after they have retired but by then their revelations have lost much of their utility.
Hence, I would pray once again as I had prayed previously that particularly with the RTI Act and the proposed the Whistle Blowers Protection Act, with the focus of the Government to strive for transparency and accountability and to curb and crush corruption, corrupt practices of all kinds, improper use of discretion in different ways and the misuse of official position in any manner, their logical extension seems to be the suitable amendment in the various Conduct Rules so as to allow interaction with Media so as to bring truth and hidden facts that have so far been hidden in the garb of Conduct Rules.
I once again the following suggestions regarding amendment in conduct rules-
It shall be clearly specified in the Service Conduct Rules that presenting facts before the public through the Media, based on logic and reasoning and having substance in them even if they are critical of the acts and conduct of senior officers, Ministers, MLAs or MPs etc, shall not be regarded as adverse criticism of Government policy.
It shall be clearly specified that the individual acts of different public servants during the course of their official duty(Government officials, Ministers and/or public representatives etc) are not to be treated as the act of the Government per se and cannot be regarded as the policy of the Government
It shall be inserted in the Conduct Rules that even as regards the Government Policies or an act of the Government, the Government Official would have the right to present facts before the public, if it is in the larger public interest and is connected with corrupt practices of any kind. The corrupt practices here would include not only financial corruption but would also include all kinds of biases, prejudices and motivated acts
Letter No- AT /Conduct/01 Regards,
First representation regarding amendments in conduct rules -
Subject- Suggestions made as regards certain Amendments in Conduct Rules as per the need of the times
I introduce myself as Amitabh Thakur, an IPS officer from UP Cadre (1992 batch) though I am writing this letter in my individual capacity as a citizen of India. This is as regards an important problem being faced by Government servants all across the country. In our country, almost all the Government servants, including the All India Services officers, the members of the Central Civil Services and various State Government officials are regulated by their respective Conduct Rules. For instance there are the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964, All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968 and the Uttar Pradesh Conduct Rules.
All these Conduct Rules speak in almost the same manner as regards c onnection with Press or Radio, criticism of Government and Evidence before Committee or any other Authority. I present these the respective Conduct Rules in this regards for these three services as Annexure No 1.
The important facts stated in these Rules are that-
No government servant shall participate in a radio broadcast or contribute any article or write any letter to any newspaper or periodical etc
No government servant shall in any radio broadcast on in any document make any statement of fact or opinion which has the effect of any adverse criticism of any current or recent policy of action of the Government or which is capable of embarrassing the relations between different Governments or which is capable of embarrassing the relations between the Central Government and the Government of any foreign State
No government servant shall, except with the previous sanction of the Government, give evidence in connection with any enquiry conducted by any person, committee or authority.
Where any sanction has been accorded to give evidence, no government servant giving such evidence shall criticize the policy of the Government
In short, these conduct Rules primarily focus on acting as a barrier in direct interaction between the Government officers and the public particularly through the use of Media. Thus this is Media restriction to the Government servants. This certainly serves an important function because the Government servants are repository of many important government information. They are also privy to many important facts, figures, documents and information belonging to the Government and related to Governance. In such circumstances, if the Government servants start disseminating these information they are privy to or start stating all the important documents they have been made custody of or start sharing all the facts they have been shared with, it would certainly act as a big barrier to the smooth and proper functioning of the Government. Every system, every mechanism and every structure needs a reasonable amount of privacy, discipline and restrictions.
At the same time, we need to realize that there is never only face to any matter. If there is a need for restraining Government servants from interacting with Media as and when they wish, there is also a need for making this restraint more focused and specific. Thus instead of making the interaction with Media and speaking up facts and opinions a complete ban, we now possibly need to make a few suitable amendments-
It needs to be clearly specified that any adverse criticism of any current or recent policy of action of the Government does not in any way mean coming up with facts that might be critical or denigrating to one or more officers and/or ministers etc in the Government. The various Conduct Rules now need to specify in black and white that adverse criticism of Government policy is not to be equated with presenting such facts before the public through the Media that is critical to a senior officer or is critical to a Minister or a MLA or MP etc. It also kindly needs to be specified that the acts of individual public servants (Government officials, Ministers and/or public representatives etc) are not to be treated as the act of the Government per se and cannot be rigidly equated with the policy of the Government.
It possibly also needs to be inserted in the Conduct Rules that even as regards the Government Policies or an act of the Government, the Government Official would have the right to present facts before the public, if it is in the larger public interest and is connected with corrupt practices of any kind. The corrupt practices here would include not only financial corruption but would also include all kinds of biases, prejudices and motivated acts
There seems to be a great need to make these required amendments in the Conduct Rules because times have changed a lot since the days these Conduct Rules were originally framed. In the 1950s and 60s, we hardly heard of scams, corruptions, improper acts of the higher government officials etc. There was a faith in the system which most of the Public Servants strove very hard to maintain. Sadly today this seems to have broken to a very big extent. We have before us hundreds of mega-scams coming up every day. In many of these scams, big political personalities, Ministers, MPs, MLAs and senior Government officials are alleged to be involved. We have also been witness to many of these Ministers, ex-Ministers, MPs, MLAs, Secretaries, Army Major Generals/ Lt Generals, Police DGs etc being sent to jail on different charges of corrupt practices, most of them monetary in nature while others being related to improper conduct, impropriety, grave immoral conduct etc.
In many of these cases, it is later found and said by the Government servants that they could not open up when they had a chance of bringing the facts because they were threatened by the higher ups and because the service conduct rules stopped them from making the matter public. In 2G scam, we heard of Secretary level officer of Government of India saying that he had to keep silent because his mouth was sealed. Recently, the opening up of Sri Ashok Khemka, IAS- 1991, Haryana in a particular example of how a very large number of government servants want to open up before the public, so as to bring the facts and to prevent happening of corrupt and improper acts. I am myself privy to many such orders, dictates, instructions etc (mostly oral but some of them in writing) from public servants of all ranks which were blatantly illegal, improper and unjustified but where I had to keep them with me, because of the unknown fear of the “Conduct Rules.” What I want to say is that Conduct Rules are fine and are necessary but they shall not become tools in the hands of guilty and wrong people, who misuse the silence of various honest and scrupulous government servants. Silence is Gold, fine. But the same silence becomes ruinous and dangerous when it is extended to unnecessary extent.
The Government has already come up with the RTI Act with the sole purpose of bringing accountability and transparency in the system. When we get a document through the use of RTI Act, in a way, we have the officer speaking before us. But it needs to be understood that not all matters come in open through RTI Act. Many a times, the vested interests in Government pave all kinds of hindrance in providing the documents though the RTI Act clearly specifies that these documents can be given. I can say from my personal example that I had to approach the State Information Commission and the Central Information Commission umpteen number of times to get documents related to my own service records level officers and had to approach the Hon’ble Allahabad High Court in at least two cases before I could finally get the documents I deserved to be provided at the very beginning.
The Central Government is also planning to bring the Whistle Blowers Protection Act which is aimed to establish a mechanism to receive complaints relating to disclosure on any allegation of corruption or wilful misuse of power or wilful misuse of discretion against any public servant and to inquire or cause an inquiry into such disclosure and to provide adequate safeguards against victimization of the person making such complaint and for matters connected therewith and incidental thereto.
In the suggested Bill, the Central Vigilance Commission or any other authority specified by the Central Government shall be the "Competent Authority" for the Central government servants while for State Government servants it shall be the State Vigilance Commission, or any officer specified by the State Government. The Bill talks of "disclosure” as a complaint relating to an attempt to commit or commission of an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, wilful misuse of power or wilful misuse of discretion by virtue of which demonstrable loss is caused to the Government or demonstrable wrongful gain accrues to the public servant or to any third party or attempt to commit or commission of a criminal offence by a public servant. Section 4 of the proposed Act says- “( 1 ) Notwithstanding anything contained in the provisions of the Official Secrets Act, 1923, any public servant or any other person including any non-governmental organisation, may make a public interest disclosure before the Competent Authority. ( 2 ) Any disclosure made under this Act shall be treated as public interest disclosure for the purposes of this Act and shall be made before the Competent Authority and the complaint making the disclosure shall, on behalf of the Competent Authority, be received by such authority as may be specified by regulations made by the Competent Authority.” Section 4 ( 6 ) says- “No action shall be taken on public interest disclosure by the Competent Authority if the disclosure does not indicate the identity of the complainant or public servant making public interest.”
Now that the focus of the Government is to strive for transparency and accountability and to curb and crush corruption, corrupt practices of all kinds, improper use of discretion in different ways and the misuse of official position in any manner, the logical extension of the Right to Information Act 2005 and the proposed Whistle Blowers Protection Act 2011 would be to suitably amend the various Conduct Rules so as to allow interaction with Media so as to bring truth and hidden facts that have so far been hidden in the garb of Conduct Rules. I place special emphasis on allowing targeted interaction with Media because whether one likes it or not, whether one acknowledges it or not, Media remains one of the most powerful tools of democracy. It has been the constant Media vigil that led to the unearthing of so many huge scams. It has been the Media that officers like Sri Sanjeev Bhatt, IPS- Gujarat Cadre, Sri Ashok Khemka, IAS, Haryana Cadre and other resorted to while being in service and which persons like Sri Y P Singh, ex-IPS, Maharashtra Cadre, Sri Arvind Kejriwal, ex-IRS, Sri Avinash Dharmadhikari, ex- IAS, Mahrashtra Cadre, Ms Aruna Roy, ex IAS, Rajasthan Cadre etc resorted to after resigning from their service midway after allegedly feeling frustrated with the existing system. It is again the same Media which many retired officers headed to, in an attempt to bring out the truth but then possibly it was too late and the harm had already been conducted.
In sum, I make the following humble suggestions complete ban, we now possibly need to make a few suitable amendments-
It might be clearly specified in the Service Conduct Rules that presenting facts before the public through the Media, based on logic and reasoning and having substance in them even if they are critical of the acts and conduct of senior officers, Ministers, MLAs or MPs etc, shall not be regarded as adverse criticism of Government policy.
It might be clearly specified that the individual acts of different public servants during the course of their official duty(Government officials, Ministers and/or public representatives etc) are not to be treated as the act of the Government per se and cannot be regarded as the policy of the Government
It might be inserted in the Conduct Rules that even as regards the Government Policies or an act of the Government, the Government Official would have the right to present facts before the public, if it is in the larger public interest and is connected with corrupt practices of any kind. The corrupt practices here would include not only financial corruption but would also include all kinds of biases, prejudices and motivated acts
Letter No- AT /Conduct/01 Regards,
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