Centre amends conduct rules to make bureaucrats honest, neutral

The government has, after 46 years, amended the rules of conduct for top bureaucrats with new provisions to the effect that a civil servant shall maintain political neutrality and take decisions on merit alone.

The government issued a gazette notification on 6 August amending the All India Service (Conduct) Rules, 1968, for officers of all-India services like the Indian Administrative Service, Indian Police Service, and Indian Forest Service.

As many as 19 new provisions have been inserted in the rules, which now say that every member of an all-India service shall maintain "high ethical standards, integrity and honesty" as well as political neutrality.

"Every member of the service shall maintain promoting of principles of merit, fairness and impartiality in the discharge of duties, accountability and transparency, responsiveness to the public - particularly to the weaker sections - and courtesy and good behaviour with the public," say the new set of rules inserted by the government.

The earlier conduct rules merely said, "All members shall at all times maintain absolute integrity and devotion to duty and shall do nothing which is unbecoming of a member of the Service." The Narendra Modi government has decided that this is not enough.

Now, it has also been specified that a bureaucrat shall not place himself under any financial or other obligations to any individual or organisation which may influence him in the performance of his official duties.

Another new provision is that the bureaucrat should declare their private interests relating to public duties and take steps to resolve any conflicts in a way that protects the public interest.

Other new attributes expected now of a bureaucrat are: "He should commit himself to and uphold the supremacy of the constitution and democratic values, defend and uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, public order, decency and morality."

The new set of rules say that bureaucrats should take decisions "solely in the public interest" and use or cause to use public resources "efficiently, effectively and economically".

The new rules also say that a civil servant "should not misuse his position" and not take decisions in order to derive financial or material benefits for "himself, his friends or family".

Bureaucrats are now expected not to discriminate against anyone, particularly the poor and under-privileged sections of society and "refrain" from doing anything which is contrary to law or established practices.

"A civil servant shall maintain discipline in the discharge of his duties and be liable to implement the lawful orders duly communicated to him. He will be liable to maintain confidentiality in the performance of his officials duties as required by law, particularly with regard to information, disclosure of which will prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, strategic, scientific or economic interests of India, friendly relations with foreign countries or lead to incitement of an offence or illegal gains to any person," the new rules say.

It has also been specified that a civil servant shall performs and discharge his duties with the "highest degree of professionalism" and "dedication to the best of his abilities." Such wide-ranging set of conduct rules now ensure bureaucrats will have to be on their toes as violation of these conduct rules can lead to strong disciplinary action.