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CODE OF ETHICS FOR CIVIL SERVANTS

CODE OF ETHICS FOR CIVIL SERVANTS

The changing time has necessitated thought and action plan there must be a code of ethics for civil servants.

The inculcation of values facilitating the subordination of the self to a larger, societal good, and engendering a spirit of empathy for those in need of ameliorative state interventions are not skills which could be easily imbibed after joining the civil services.

Such attitudes need nurturing over not merely individual life-times, but through successive generations – the ‘right’ ethos takes long to evolve.

  • Nevertheless, it must be accepted that our civil service system has a tradition of attitudes and achievements which sets examples to be emulated by current and prospective civil servants.
  • It must also be accepted that the existing framework for maintaining and promoting the norms of ‘right conduct’ cannot be enforced through a rigid mindless enforcement of laws and rules. It is all a question of striking the right balance.
  • Within the civil services there are formal, enforceable codes setting out norms of expected behaviour with ‘sanctions’ prescribed for unacceptable departures from such norms.
  • There are also inchoate conventions of propriety and acceptable behaviour without formal sanctions but with nonobservance of such practices and conventions attracting social disapproval and stigma.
  • Civil servants have special obligations because they are responsible for managing resources entrusted to them by the community, because they provide and deliver services to the community and because they take important decisions that affect all aspects of a community’s life.

The community has a right to expect that the civil service functions fairly, impartially and efficiently.

It is essential that the community must be able to trust and have confidence in the integrity of the civil service decision-making process.

Within the civil service itself, it needs to be ensured that the decisions and actions of civil servants reflect the policies of the government of the day and the standards that the community expects from them as government servants.

The expectation that the civil service will maintain the same standards of professionalism, responsiveness and impartiality in serving successive political governments is a key element of the way our democratic polity functions.

Scenario in India

  • In India, the current set of ethical norms are the Conduct Rules, contained in the Central Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964 and analogous rules applicable to members of the All India Services or employees of various State Governments.
  • The code of behaviour as enunciated in the Conduct Rules, while containing some general norms like ‘maintaining integrity and absolute devotion to duty’ and not indulging in ‘conduct unbecoming of a government servant’ is generally directed towards cataloguing specific activities deemed undesirable for government servants. These conduct rules do not constitute a code of ethics.

ETHICS LECTURES

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