The Central Minister of Law, Shri Virappa Moili made a public statement that the corrupt government employees should be dismissed or removed from service and Article 311 of the Constitution of India which is protecting them should be amended or be dropped from the Constitution. So far as the first part of his statement is concerned, we entirely agree with him but the second part of his statement that Article 311 should be dropped from the Constitution requires close examination.
Article 311 provides that (1) No person who is a member of the civil service of the union or an All India Service or a Civil Service of a State or holds a Civil post under the Union or a State shall be dismissed or removed by an Authority sub-ordinate to that by which he was appointed.
(2) No such person as afore said shall be dismissed or removed or reduced in rank except after an inquiry in which he has been informed of charges against him and given a reasonable opportunity of being heard in respect of those charges.
Article 311 of the Constitution does not prohibit the government from dismissing any corrupt government employees, it only provides that the delinquent employee should be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard in respect of charges made against him. There should be an enquiry against him where he will have the opportunity of explaining his conduct. Article 311 has also authorised the government or the concerned Authority in the government not to hold any enquiry where it is not reasonably practicable. The authorities are required only to record the reasons as to why it is not practicable to hold the enquiry. If the government is armed with so much of power to dismiss a corrupt government employee, after observing some formalities as required by Article 311 what prompted the Law Minister to think of abolishing such a valuable right of the employee. If the government employee is corrupt, he should immediately be dismissed from service in the greater interest of the administration, but the case of corruption must be proved against him otherwise the employees who are dutiful but upright and a bit independent minded will be subjected to victimisation, if they fail to act according to the whims of their higher bosses.
This valuable right of a citizen or government employee cannot be taken away arbitrarily without giving him any opportunity of being heard. He is entitled to know the crime he has committed. We should not forget that we are governed by rule of Law on which the entire Constitutional system of this country is based. The cardinal principles of rule of Law is that nobody should be punished without being afforded an opportunity of hearing. The framers of the Constitution had clearly foreseen this danger while drafting the Constitution.
From our experience we know that the corrupt officers/employees are more cunning than others and are capable enough to escape from the clutches of corruption. There are instances that the officers/employees who are a little independent minded and work according to their conscience are mostly victimised by some power hungry unscrupulous political bosses in the government Corrupt Rulers are not prepared to tolerate this type of employees who have such mentality and who have even love for their state or the country. They are guided by their whims and caprices. Rulers who are corrupt and arbitrary in nature victimise the employees who did not act according to their illegal dictates, by bringing disciplinary proceedings on changes of insubordination, indiscipline, irregularities and corruption. Employees are also placed under suspension without having any prima facie case against them. This sort of rulers or senior Officers are well-aware of the fact that when someone is placed under suspension his image in the administration and in the estimation of the public is damaged. Nobody bothers to know whether he is actually guilty or not guilty. In such a society of ours, should we abolish these great rights of the employees for the whims of some political leaders who without examining the real purpose of this constitutional safeguard threaten to amend or abolish the same for earning some cheap popularity?
If for getting rid of the corrupt employees Article 311 has to be amended or dropped from the Constitution, for getting rid of the corrupt Ministers’/Chief Minister or Prime Minister what laws are contemplated to be enacted by the Law Minister. According to his statement Lok Pal and Lokayukt are to be appointed and should be made more functional. Is it enough to eradicate corruption from the high places?
I don’t blame the Law Minister for his statement which he might have made with bonafide intention, but I like to tell him that on the plea of eradicating corruption the constitutional guarantee should not be withdrawn whimsically by exercise of arbitrary powers.
(The writer is a former Minister of Law, Government of Orissa)