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‘All ministries to list IAS, IPS, other officers with ‘doubtful integrity’ for early retirement’

  • Category
    Ethics
  • Published
    7th Sep, 2020

The central government has instructed all ministries and departments to maintain a register of government servants in the 50-55 year age bracket, and those who have completed 30 years in service, as it plans to weed out more “corrupt” and “inefficient” officials.

Context

The central government has instructed all ministries and departments to maintain a register of government servants in the 50-55 year age bracket, and those who have completed 30 years in service, as it plans to weed out more “corrupt” and “inefficient” officials.

Background

The Indian Bureaucracy

  • The Indian bureaucracyis much celebrated and, at the same time, much reviled. It has been called the 'steel frame' and is also called 'babudom'.
  • Its performance draws reactions ranging from total despondency to cautious accolade.
  • However, in the present times, across all sections of society, it has ceased to draw unqualified praise or recognition for its role. How has it travelled from the 'steel frame' days to being seen as a 'laid back and laggard' phenomenon today?
  • There is great need to introspect on these issues as any sustainable economic development can only be premised on the edifice of a transparent, accountable and ethical governance structure, which is what the civil service is meant to provide.

Analysis

What is in the ‘Order’?

  • According to an order issued by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), all ministries and government departments will have to conduct a quarterly review of the officials, in order to ascertain who among them need to be prematurely retired from service.

Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions

  • The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions is the coordinating agency of the Central Government in personnel matters specially issues concerning recruitment, training, career development, staff welfare as well as the post retirement dispensation.
  • The Ministry is also concerned with the process of responsive people-oriented modern administration. Allocation of Business Rules defines the work allotted for the Ministry.
  • The Ministry comprises of the following three Departments.
    • The Department of Personnel & Training
    • The Department of Pensions & Pensioners’ Welfare
    • The Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances
  • In order to bring in better clarity to the existing instructions and enable uniform implementation, an effort has been made to review, consolidate and reiterate the guidelines so far issued on the subject at one place.
  • The register of the government servants who are due to attain the age of 50/55 years or to complete 30 years of service, has to be maintained.
  • The register maintained by each ministry will have to be reviewed at the beginning of every quarter by a senior official of the ministry or department.
  • As such, a review would be mandatory for the January-March, April-June, July-September and October-December periods.

What will be the ‘criteria’ of ‘premature retirement’?

  • Doubtful integrity: Government servants whose integrity is doubtful, shall be retired.
  • Ineffective service: Government servants found to be ineffective shall also be retired.
  • The basic consideration in identifying such government servants should be their fitness/competence to continue in the post held.
  • No government servant should ordinarily be retired on ground of ineffectiveness, if, in any event, he would be retiring on superannuation within a period of one year from the date of consideration of his case.
  • However, in case where there is a sudden and steep fall in the competence, efficiency or effectiveness of a government servant, it will be open to review such a case also for premature retirement.
  • The entire service record, in addition to the Annual Performance Appraisal Report (APAR), of a government servant should be considered at the time of review.

Committee to decide on officers for premature retirement 

  • The names of officials whose integrity is found to be doubtful will be forwarded to a Review and Representation Committee, which will need to be constituted.
  • Group A Officers: In case of Group A officers, such as those of the IAS and IPS officers, the review committee will constitute of the secretary of the service’s Cadre Controlling Authority.
    • For example, Ministry of Home Affairs in case of IPS officers, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change in case of Indian Forest Service officers, and Ministry of External Affairs for Indian Foreign Service officers, among others.
  • Boards: In cases where there are boards — for example, the Railway Board and the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), among others, the Review Committee will be headed by the chairman of such a board.
  • The broad criteria of this committee would be to recommend names of officers for premature retirement in cases where the officer’s “integrity is doubtful” or the officer is found to be ineffective.

The premature retirement

  • The premature retirement would be done under Fundamental Rules 56(j), 56(l) or Rule 48 (1) (b) of Central Civil Services (Pension) Rules, 1972.
  • According to the order,

“The objective of Fundamental Rule (FR) 560)1(l) and Rule 48 of CCS(Pension) Rules, 1972, is to strengthen the administrative machinery by developing responsible and efficient administration at all levels and to achieve efficiency, economy and speed in the disposal of Government function.”

  • It is clarified that premature retirement of government servants under these rules is not a penalty.
  • It is distinct from 'compulsory retirement', which is one of the prescribed penalties under Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1965.

Retirement Rule

  • The government may, at any time after a government servant has attained the age of 50/55 years or completed 30 years of service, as the case may be, retire him/her prematurely in public interest.

Applicability

  • FR 56 (J): The service record of a group A and B category officer can be reviewed if he/she has attained the age of 50 years (in case of joining service before 35 years of age) or after attaining 55 years (in case of joining service after 35 years of age).
  • FR 56 (I): Under FR 56 (I), the appropriate authority has the absolute right to retire a government servant in Group C service or post who is not governed by any pension rules, after he has completed 30 years' service by giving him/her notice of not less than three months in writing or three months' pay and allowances in lieu of such notice.
  • Rule 48 (1) (b) of CCS (Pension) Rules, 1972: For employees covered under Rule 48 (1) (b) of CCS (Pension) Rules, 1972, the review can be done at any time after a government servant has completed 30 years' qualifying service.

The ailing bureaucracy of India

  • There is no point in denying that the Indian bureaucracy is one of the worst in the world and is widely notorious for its labyrinthine rules and genetic negativity.
  • India is also among the most corrupt nations; surely a large part of the bureaucracy must have either connived in it or abdicated its tasks. 
  • Appointments by governments are always in the danger of being politicised.

The other side of the coin

  • Indians think of their bureaucrats as self-servers, rent-seekers, obstructive and corrupt.
  • There is no doubt that civil servants do face dilemmas in decision making right through their careers. The tasks they have to perform, amidst rising expectations, are tough.
  • On a number of occasions, the civil servant’s side of the story never gets to be known. There are instances when politicians disown decisions that are subsequently found to be unpleasant.
  • Bureaucracy, like any other segment of the society, has its share of the good, the bad and the ugly ones. What matters is who amongst these get recognised by the decision-makers.
  • There are officers who are efficient and honest, but there are also those that are dishonest and inefficient. There is another category of dishonest but efficient officers.

Challenges

  • Average compensation formula: The compensation structure today is not adverse in government.
    • Being inadequately paid can hardly be ascribed to some of the ills that have crept in.
    • Corruption or nepotism are a direct consequence of an individual not being able to see an exciting career for himself which permits him to rise to the highest echelons.
  • Outdated model: This bureaucratic model of governance inherited from the colonial era was meant to be a steel frame, designed to provide basic civil administration.
    • Structurally, generalist bureaucracy is geared towards being cautious and following precedents, which promotes the lack of a sense of urgency and is suboptimal in providing the responsiveness expected by the people in a democracy and, for that matter, for innovation. 
  • Conservative approach: To cede control of every aspect of government policy-making and implementation to generalist bureaucracy is essentially choosing a conservative approach, stifling India's growth. 

How to re-engineer the bureaucracy?

Any attempt to re-engineer the bureaucracy would have to deal with two aspects.

  • Addressing the structure: The first would have to address the systems or structures
    • No civil service structure can be static in its character.
    • It has to be dynamic and has to change with the times.
  • Ethical attitude: The other would have to be the professional or attitudinal aspects of civil servants.

How ‘Good Governance’ can play a role?

  • Good governance is the need of the hour. The citizen, having come centre stage, demands a more responsive, transparent and accountable set-up which is premised on probity and integrity.
  • Our system needs to emulate some of the culture embedded in the civil services of Singapore, Scandinavian countries and the qualities that the British Civil services, from whom we derived our model, still espouse and maintain. It is not about compensation alone.
    • Any person seeking enhanced levels of compensation has enough opportunities elsewhere. He need not join government.
  • We need to seek to create a bureaucracy of persons who are spirited, inspired and willing to work closely with public agencies, rather than sit in ivory towers. The civil servant has to be a team player first before he seeks to be a team leader.

Conclusion

Revamping the bureaucracy is not a Herculean task. It merely requires a positive mindset of the government in power and a determination among the aspirants in the service to deliver as per the hallowed objectives of the service. It requires officers to remain committed to the job at hand and not be swayed by narrow sectarian, political or regional interests.

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