Non-partisanship and Neutrality are key attributes of Civil Servants

  • Categories
    Ethics
  • Published
    30th Mar, 2021

Context

Days after being shunted out from the post of Mumbai Police Commissioner, Param Bir Singh has alleged that Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh had demanded ?100 crore every month from suspended police officer Sachin Vaze, now in custody of National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the Mukesh Ambani bomb scare case.

Background

  • Sachin Vaze, was a so-called ‘encounter specialist’ in the Mumbai Police force. He was suspended from the force 16 years ago, due to a case of custodial death.
  • After suspension he associated himself with Shiv sena, which allegedly reinstated him in the Police force in 2020.
  • Such cases of Civil Servants being associated with Politicians have come up many times throughout the length and breadth of the Nation.
  • This requires civil servants to maintain political neutrality and Non partisanship.
  • Thus, a discussion on key attributes of civil services, Non Partisanship and Political Neutrality becomes evident.

Analysis

Non-Partisanship

  • Non-partisanship implies that the officer is to do his task without any fear of, or favor to any political party, even if he has strong faith in any political thought.

Why are they needed?

  • It brings credibility and trust among the public in the functioning of the public service.
  • It makes the civil servants gutsy, rather than merely capable, so that they can ask relevant questions with respect to the policy, law etc.
  • It ensures equality, justice among different sections of the society.
  • It ensures the morale, effectiveness and efficiency of civil services, as the transfer, posting etc. are expected to be based on merit alone rather than any extraneous factors.

How are they ensured?

  • The Central Civil Services Conduct Rules, 1964 and All India Services Conduct Rules 1968
    • which stipulate certain guidelines for the Civil servant to perform the duty with full devotion; and shall not adopt dilatory tactics in their dealings with the public
  • Code of Ethics, 1997
    • It was the first initiative to introduce the code of ethics for public servants in India, which was considered a step towards better governance

Neutrality

  • Civil Service Neutrality refers to political impartiality.
  • Neutrality is not being biased in providing facts, feedback, opinions, etc. to the political executive or diligently carrying out tasks ordered by the government, irrespective of which political party’s government is in power.

Importance of Non-partisanship and Neutrality in Bureaucracy

  • Non-partitionship helps to maintain trust of people in Administration.
  • It helps to maintain a healthy relationship between political executives and civil servants.
  • It motivates civil servants to provide recommendations/suggestions to policy makers without ill-will or favor.
  • It helps in effective policy formulation and its implementation.
  • It also helps in mending self-interest based political ideology towards holistic development.
  • It keeps the ideology of the constitution above any other political, religious or economic ideology.

Types of neutrality

Sometimes, it is classified into two types.

  1. Passive neutrality: Here the public official will do anything that the political executive orders him to do. But then he may end up violating some legal/constitutional provisions. It was the neutrality that was actualized by Nazi bureaucracy. Hence passive neutrality is undesirable.
  2. Active neutrality: The Officer will do what the constitution, rules, laws and office manual says, without following any particular party. Sometimes, it leads to civil services activism.

Conduct Rules for Neutrality

The Central Civil Services Conduct Rules, 1964 and the All India Services Conduct Rules 1968: They lay down the following provisions to ensure neutrality of public servants:

  • Public servants must not take part in politics.
  • They must not give election fund/ assistance to any political party
  • They can vote. But must not tell his preference to other people.
  • They must not display any election symbols on his person, vehicle or home.
  • They must not participate in rallies, demonstrations etc., without government permission.

Challenges to Neutrality

  • Lack of independent institutions: There is a lack of independent institutions for transferring, posting, and other service conditions. As a result, the civil servants align with one or the other political party to get their favorite postings and other perks.
  • Secrecy: Secrecy in official functioning, as a result there develops nexus between the political executive and civil servants to fulfill their illegitimate gratifications.
  • In-service and intra-service rivalry: In each government-service, there are various factions based on language, religion, caste and region. To gain promotion and perks for their faction, they’d bend to the wills of politicians.
  • Illegitimate Political agendas: Wrong notion of committed bureaucracy, where the civil servants try to fulfill the political agenda of a particular political party.
  • Election and corruption: Ministers need a lot of money to finance election campaigns, so they prefer a convenient subordinate. Many don’t like an officer who gives free and frank advice.

Conclusion

Democratically elected leaders legislate and make policy, the permanent executive of civil servants is meant to advise and execute it, irrespective of their own views. Politicisation of Bureaucracy leads to undue political influence in the governance. Bureaucrats need to maintain political neutrality and impartiality to ensure the triumph of democracy and smooth functioning of its institutions.

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