SC tells bureaucrats not to entertain oral orders
Dr Joginder Singh
When I joined Indian Police Service in 1961, in the then Mysore and later on renamed Karnataka cadre, the country was governed by the stalwarts, who treated governance as a trust. They did not treat it as a football ground to kick around the officials, who did not dance to their tunes. Ofcourse, there were cases when some action did not suit the convenience of the powers that be, the officials were transferred. But nobody in bureaucracy regarded the legislators and Ministers as demigods, and in all fairness, the legislators most of the time did not throw their weight about.
The Supreme Court has set minimum tenures for bureaucrats and put restrictions on arbitrary transfers and postings by their political masters, wading into an issue that has long bedeviled relations between the executive and officialdom on October 30, 2013.
Supreme Court added that “We notice that much of the deterioration of the standards of probity and accountability with the civil servants is due to the political influence or persons, purporting to represent, those who are in authority. In the present political scenario, the role of civil servants has become very complex and onerous. Often they have to take decisions which will have far-reaching consequences in the economic and technological fields. Their decisions must be transparent and must be in public interest. They should be fully accountable to the community they serve…Arbitrary transfers is also a major bugbear of the bureaucracy, with politicians wielding it as a weapon against inconvenient officials”. It is more or less like the September 22, 2006 orders of the Apex Court, which has not been implemented. In all fairness, it must be said to the credit of the Prime Minister, that he is and was for a fixed tenure since 2004, when he took over.
It all started with the ruling of the Supreme Court in a case, when Supreme Court ordered a minimum tenure for Director CBI, in December, 1997. This is the only post in the law which has a fixed tenure. Others jumped on the same bandwagon including, Home Secretary, Cabinet Secretary, Defence Secretary, Director, Intelligence Bureau Secretary Research and Analysis Wing and a few more.
Take the case of the largest State of India, Uttar Pradesh. In a round of administrative reshuffle, the Uttar Pradesh government in April 2012, transferred 70 IAS officers, including 32 district magistrates and five divisional commissioners. With this, the total number of IAS officers transferred since the present Government (SP Government) came to power on March 15, 2012, the transfers of IAS officers has gone up to 221. The total authorised strength of the UP cadre is 537. The present UP Governemnt has transferred a total of 1828 officers of the Provincial Police Service (PPS) got transferred in Uttar Pradesh in a short period of 2 years in 2011 and 2012. This includes 478 officers of additional SP (ASP) rank and 1350 Deputy SPs. 307 ASP rank officers got transferred in 2011 while 171 were transferred in 2011. 892 deputy SP rank officers were transferred in 2012 and 458 in 2011.
Lest I be misunderstood in painting any political party black, I hasten to add that the same story has been repeated all over by the previous rulers, belonging to other parties. In first term as the chief minister in 1995, a government that lasted four months and 14 days, the Government (BSP) effected 550 transfers of IAS officers. The second regime of the same party, for all of 6 months in 1997, saw another 777 transfers. The third stint (BSP) in power saw 970 transfers while the number crossed 1,200 in the same party’s five-year term in the CM office. By that logic, the mass-scale transfers in the present government (SP) have nearly beaten the Previous (BSP) record. These figures do not include other state-level employees, or even the secretariat staff, which have not been spared.
Uttar Pradesh is no worse or no better than almost all other States, though the difference may be in degrees. The Maharashtra Government was, in 2011, forced to withdraw a blatantly illegal circular instructing policemen not to record politicians’ calls in their station diaries. In a High Court recorded case, a private secretary of ex-CM Vilasrao Deshmukh had in 2006 called up Buldhana police asking them not to register an FIR against a Congress legislator’s money-lender father. Farmers from Vidarbha had wanted to complain about a money-lending racket which squeezed debt-ridden cultivators dry.
The call was recorded in the police diary by the investigating officer. Later Deshmukh had, also allegedly told the collector not to act till he had ‘personally looked into the matter.’ The High Court struck down the circular and the Government went in appeal to the Supreme Court. , which not only upheld the HC order but enhanced the cost imposed on the State to Rs 10 lakh, from Rupees Ten Thousands. By the above instances, I do not fancy conveying any impression, that Indian Bureaucracy is full of saints and all politicians are crooks. According to a survey by the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC), India has been named as having the most inefficient bureaucracy in Asia. Its survey says: “Politicians frequently promise to reform and revitalise the Indian bureaucracy, but they have been ineffective in doing so—mainly because the civil service is a power centre in its own right.” The survey further notes that dealing with India’s bureaucracy “can be one of the most frustrating experiences for any Indian, let alone a foreign investor”.
There are far too many laws, rules and regulations, in our country. There are roughly 1,030 Central Acts and 6727 State Acts, which give the bureaucrats plenty of opportunity to further tax the patience of the citizen. There are far too many clearances and approvals to be obtained, for doing anything in our country, whether it is starting a business or setting up a new industry or a new venture. Only speed money can make most bureaucrats move. If we go by the report of The International Corruption Watchdog Transparency International, released in December 2012, India has been ranked 94th out of 183 countries, in Corruption Perception Index ratings India has a score of 36 out of 100 on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean) which is a result of an average of 10 studies including World Bank’s Country Performance and Institutional Assessment and Global Insight Country Risk Ratings.
In 2013, India is ranked below the neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka and China, Bureaucracy has to pull up its socks, to make life easy for the common man. It is also the duty of the Political executive to be fair to all Indians, instead of going by caste, creed or religion and stop indulging in vote bank politics. Corruption is eating into the vitals of the country, and all of us are stake holders. As Supreme court has laid down debarring criminals from Politics, it is time to weed out the corrupt, inefficient bureaucrats also, from the system, instead of the working of Government, which at present is providing layers after layers of protection not only to the serving but also the retired bureaucrats. It would not do to treat the criminals in civil service with kid gloves and give them over protection. The present position in the Government is that whether you work or not whether you are corrupt or not, you are safe, as the built in procedures provide over protection, which must go. Good governance does not come easy and it involves taking hard decision or striking hard? The million dollar question to quote Charles Dickens, whether “Barkis Is Willing”.
(The writer is former Director, Central Bureau of Investigation)