Asphyxiation of Indian Bureaucracy?

Sardar Vallabhai Patel is the architect of All India Services, on 21st April marked as the Civil Services Day, wherein he addressed the first batch of All India Officers as ‘STEEL FRAME OF INDIA’, this frame has now been dented, his vision & aspiration of a Nation has just been casted into the shadow of his monument. “It is the Honour Killing of Indian Bureaucracy”.

Indian civil services have always been the juncture of pride for the Indian citizens. Article 312 of the Indian Constitution talks about the creation of one or more All India Services common to the Union and State. This Service was introduced by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in the light of ICS in imperial India. Although, liabilities of these officers lie for both state and centre but the Cadre is specific to States. and this very aspect speculates the unitary character of Indian Federalism.

The glorified prominence of Indian Civil Services makes it a more enthusiastic and sophisticated government job in India. Indian Civil Officers play a very important role in the synchronous working of the world largest Democracy. Because the will of the people has to be executed through the bureaucrats in India, and it is pertinent to mention here, these bureaucrats are responsible for the proper functioning of the society. All India Service officers are considered to be the backbone of the administrative machinery in the Country.

Recently a 1987 batch IAS officer from West Bengal was served a Show Cause Notice, on the grounds of making the Central Authority wait for 30 minutes, even though he was under the instructions of the CM West Bengal.

On May 25, the West Bengal government provided a request, referring to the Center’s endorsement dated May 24. Afterwards. on May 28, DoPT asked Chief Secretary that “the Appointment Committee of the Cabinet has supported the arrangement of the administrations” of Bandyopadhyay with the Government of India with “prompt impact” and mentioned the state to ease the official with quick impact and direct him to report by 10 am on May 31. 

This came to notice of both of them and as indicated by current realities and conditions introduced they skirted the gathering with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to the state. As it ended up, the Chief Minister didn’t alleviate Bandyopadhyay, who at last didn’t answer to New Delhi. Accordingly, Hours before he resigned, the previous Chief Secretary of West Bengal Mr Alapan Bandyopadhyay was served a show-cause notice by the Union Home Ministry under Section 51 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, 

The former Chief Secretary of West Bengal Mr Alapan Bandyopadhyay justified his act by saying he was under the actions and orders of the Chief Minister, as they had to attend another state meeting at Digha, which was pre-scheduled, regarding the issue of Cyclone Yaas aftermath and that they handed the reports of damage caused by the impact of the Cyclone to PM in the meeting itself.

In such a dramatic fashion, it is clearly visible that this is nothing but yet another episode of Centre vs State. The point herein is that in the present situation the citizens of this country have not subscribed to this show, where the All India Officers are being used as Puppets, to satisfy their inside quarrels.

Questioning the act that questioned the IAS?

Since the country is facing unprecedented conditions due to the widespread of COVID-19, therefore Disaster Management Act, 2005 is enforced in India which shares powers and responsibilities amongst the various levels of government, with a more dominant coordinating role envisaged for the Central Government. This ultimately shows that many state-level political parties become hostile to the party ruling at the centre.

Since the day 24th March 2020 the Act was put in application it has been a matter of concern firstly, as it was purposefully enacted for a natural disaster and not to deal with Public Health emergency, that is the need of the hour in the current scenario of this country. This act does not apply to the whole of the Country. This Act centralizes the Sphere of operations, giving the Central Government overriding powers of enforcement even though under the Indian Constitution, Public Health is a topic of jurisdiction with the State Government.

Whom to vote for: centre or the state?

 Instead of the enactment of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1987 allocates most of the Power to the State Governments giving a very limited role to the Central Government in power. Also, it is pertinent to mention that this Act, creates no obligations, accountability or imposing restriction on the State Officials. The use of Non-Pharmaceutical Intervention (NPIs) by the State to limit the spread of COVID 19 has been through excessive use of power and force by the State to implement these new laws.

Therefore, it is the question of the implementation and applicability of these Acts. The Epidemic Disease Act confers powers to the State officials, and the law does not establish any coordination between the Centre and State government at times of such dangerous situations. Whereas on the other hand, the Disaster Management Act provides legitimate power to the Central government to manage and limit the disaster, this law is not PHE centric and does not mention any guidelines of the same as well. The government needs to formulate a certain particular set of PHE generic Laws and Guidelines.

Are the grounds justifiable?

The Former Chief Secretary of West Bengal was served the Show Cause Notice by the Centre under Section 51 of the Disaster Management (DM) Act,2005.

Section 51 (b) of the DM Act:

  • The section prescribes “punishment for obstruction” for refusal to comply with any direction given by or on behalf of the Central Government or the State government or the National Executive Committee or the State Executive Committee or the District Authority under the Act.
  • Anyone refusing to comply with orders is liable for punishment with imprisonment up to one year, or fine, or both. In case this refusal leads to the death of people, the person liable shall be punished with imprisonment up to two years.

 Ironically, in these unprecedented times, he was called off from West Bengal to DoPT. It is pertinent to mention here that, the appointment committee that decided to appoint him at DoPT was headed by the Union Home Minister. Consequently, he voluntarily retired from service and was appointed as the chief advisor to the Chief Minister.

Two important dissections of Section 51 of DM Act are,

  • Without Reasonable Cause and
  • failure of an officer to perform the duty without due permission or lawful excuse’.

But, herein, both of these elements are missing.

As there was no reasonable cause on which Central Government took action, as suggested by them in a letter to show cause, the delay of 15 minutes could not be assumed to be Non-Compliance as the officer was on round to the cyclone-affected area, which in our view could not be tantamount to a refusal of compliance.

Secondly, contrary to what it seems, the officer was on duty to the affected area deployed by the state government, seemingly he was on duty with the permission of the higher Authority rather than making a lawful excuse or doing an act without duty.

Both of the essentials of the same section were not followed by the centre before taking and hampering the dignity of such respected civil officers. And the repercussion has to be faced by the tangled image to the cadre as the resultant of conflict of such politicians.

That the notice is self-contradictory as it does not mention any such direction that has been violated. By mentioning the line “far from abstaining” they itself proof that the Former Chief Secretary did attend the review meeting.

It was a unilateral order?

Just like any other country dispute, the Centre-State dispute in which the Bureaucracy is getting targeted has become the latest Political Controversy of the Hour.

As in Stories, the Potion is the Cure, similarly “the interpretation” of Rule (7) of the All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969 is the Cure and the Crux to this Controversy as well.

Rule (7) of the All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969, talks about the relation of the authority. As appraising the quasi-federal structure of India, as the officer appointed by the Centre but working under State, so State will have the majority of authority over him. Rule (7) talks about the authority to impose penalties and initiate the proceedings against All India Officers. In the Rule, the authority to institute such investigation lies with the State Government if the officer serving is in connection with the State affairs. The Rule further specifies that the Centre and State have to agree and come to a mutual decision for taking any action or penalty, it will be imposed by an order of the Centre.

Rule (7) further implies that the members of All India Service Officers enjoy a Special Status, they are the employees of the Central Government but serving the State Government. A member of All India Service while serving in reference with the State Government is an employee of the State Government” this indicates that the authority to take action is the State Government in this scenario.

Like the Earth revolving around the sun, both have their importance in the survival of others. And ultimately this was what the Quasi Federal system is all about. Dignified Civil Servants are operated in the mere manifestation of Centre-State conflict. Political Authorities try to prove their Hegemony over each other. As they become a puppet at the hand of such demagogues to show their power by playing with such exigency laws in havoc times.

The order to depute the former Chief Secretary to Centre at DoPT was not in the knowledge of the CM West Bengal. Further to mention that as the officer didn’t report to the Centre, he was served a Show-cause Notice initiating disciplinary proceedings against him, which was further termed as a “UNILATERAL ORDER” by CM Mamata Banerjee.

Rule 7 of the All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969 simply justifies these lines by CM West Bengal, that the order was not in agreement with the State Government.

Despite being such a complication in the system, Indian remains to be the democratic power of the Quasi Federal system in the World. Maintaining such diplomatic connection within themselves.

Supporting Cases: 

In the case of Pramod Kumar v. Union of India & Ors, the Madras High Court in the year 2013 held that an All India Service Officer is subject to the control of the State Government for any act or misconduct. With clarity, the Bench stated that the “The Central Government cannot initiate any disciplinary action Suo Motu against All India Service Officer serving in connection with the affairs of the State if the member of All India Service for his commissions and omissions, while he was serving in connection with the affairs of the State.”

The argument further by the Central Government has been supported by Rule 6(1) of the Indian Administrative Service (cadre) rules, 1954, which states that A cadre officer may, with the concurrence of the state governments concerned and the central government, be deputed for service under the central government or another state government or under a company, association or body of individuals. Essentials pertaining to the Section would be a concurrence of the state government concerned and central government, it has to be made in the knowledge of the concerned State Government prominent. Both of them need to agree on the same thing in the same sense.

Episodes expand further 

Controversies like these are not at their nascent stage in this country but rather the system has become very much acclimated to incidents like this. This is just yet another showdown. To mention a few:

  1. Starting with the year 2001 in TAMIL NADU:A month after J Jayalalithaa took oath as Chief Minister in 2001, Tamil Nadu police’s CB-CID raided former Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s home on the night of June 29 and arrested him along with his DMK colleagues Murasoli Maran and T R Baalu, then ministers in the NDA government of A B Vajpayee. The following month, the Centre asked the state government to send three IPS officers to the central deputation. But Jayalalithaa refused and wrote to other Chief Ministers for their support to protect the rights of the states. The incident resulted in the removal of Governor M Fathima Beevi, as the Centre was not happy with her report.
  2. Ending with the year 2020 in WEST BENGAL: Last December, the Centre asked that three IPS officers who were in charge of security when BJP president J P Nadda’s motorcade was attacked outside Kolkata on December 10, allegedly by supporters of the Trinamool Congress, be sent on deputation. The state government refused, citing a shortage of IPS officers. The officers concerned were not relieved from the state and the Centre did not insist either. The officers — Rajeev Mishra (then Additional Director General, South Bengal), Praveen Tripathi (then Deputy Inspector General, Presidency Range) and Bholanath Pandey (then SP, Diamond Harbour) — continue to serve in the state government, in new positions.

This is just a glimpse of the list of disagreements between Centre and State. The Centre and State battle over Bengal Chief Secretary is another proof that Civil Services Rule needs Reforms.

Bureaucracy is not the lapdog of the system

This reflects the haughtiness of those who believe that be it Government servant, Public Servant or Civil servant is nothing but just the lapdog of their political executives and superiors.

As in one of the articles it was pointed out that “IAS officers must remember that the Constitution of India is their Boss, not any Political Master”. This reveals the bitter conflict between Centre and State, this act has started questioning our definition of federalism, also it shows the complete ignorance of the Law.

People have started questioning the morality of the officer who served the nation for 33 years. Time and Again the SC has warned of unwelcomed political interference in the ALL INDIA SERVICES.

The Current Attorney General K.K Venugopal in the matter of T.S.R.Subramanian’s PIL in the year 2013 argued regarding the oral orders to the All India Service Officers “We are of the view that the Civil Servants cannot function based on verbal or oral instructions, orders, suggestions, proposals etc. and they must also be protected against wrongful and arbitrary pressure exerted by the administrative superiors, political executive, business and other vested interests”.

Sardar Vallabhai Patel is the Architect of All India Services, wherein the Part XIV of the Constitution talks about Protection to the Civil Servants and expects that the Political group will not undercut it.

Applicability Of Newton’s Third Law 

The CM West Bengal denied the fact of deputing the former Chief Secretary to the Centre justifying it by the statement “the need of bureaucracy appointed in the State, is here itself, with the increase in COVID Cases and current condition of West Bengal hit by Cyclone Yaass. Currently, he is under the Obligation to serve here in the State.”

It is imperative to note herein that if the Political Chapter makes a new controversy like this making the citizens believe that instead of “Centre & State” it is rather “Centre VS State”, wherein our political leaders are busy satisfying their ‘Disgruntled clash of Ego’ making the Indian Bureaucracy a Finger puppet of the political masters.

Black stain to the steel frame 

One of the Politician tweeted that “the Bureaucrat making the PM wait for 15 minutes is a Black Day for India’s Rich Democracy” similar has been the view of many critics. Making the PM wait for the citizens of this country is not the Black Day for Indian Democracy. India’s Democracy will be dented and stained when the Farmers of this country are kept unattended when a critical patient is not attended with Oxygen when a family starving and dying due to the Cyclone are kept waiting then it is the actual “Black Day for India”.

We need to start believing in the much-touted mantra of ‘Cooperative Federalism’, by our Honourable PM Narendra Modi. Playing the Blame Game of Centre and State for mismanagement with tormenting our Concept of Federalism, these loopholes suffocate the very idea of India as a Federal country. The Modern Manu inserted the Federal System of Government in the Constitution of India, as the need was felt for Federal structure not only ensuring efficient Governance of Country but also reconciling National Unity with regional autonomy.

Conclusively, such events demolished the sole purpose of thought behind the innovative architecture of All India Services by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Subsequently, the “Steel Frame of India” is now in itself rusting through such pitiful acts.


References

  1. Srivatsa Krishna, Alapan Bandopadhyay row: Who owns the IAS? There are three sides to each story, June 04, 2021 09:32:16, Available Here
  2. Pranab Dhatt Samanta, Alapan Bandyopadhyay: Why a chief secretary can’t make excuses,  Jun 05, 2021, 11:05 PM, Available Here
  3. The Indian Administrative Service (Cadre) Rules 1954, Available Here
  4. The All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules 1969, Available Here
  5. The Disaster Management Act, 2005, Available Here

Author(s)

  • Amisha Priyadarshini Dash, 1st year BA LB Student of Christ University, Delhi NCR
  • Adish Jain, 1st year BBA LLB Student of Symbiosis Law School, Noida.

  1. Law Library: Notes and Study Material for LLB, LLM, Judiciary and Entrance Exams
  2. Legal Bites Academy – Ultimate Test Prep Destination
Author: Amisha P Dash & Adish Jain

4 thoughts on “Asphyxiation of Indian Bureaucracy?

  1. Harpal Bhalla

    A well researched article. It brings to light the true picture of present day plight of Indian bureaucracy set up ! It time that reforms have to be implemented as time demands to maintain the very characteristic feature of pure democracy and not become a mockery between the centre vs State conflicts. Well done Amisha and Adish. A pat on your back

    Reply
  2. Harpal Bhalla

    Amisha and Adish has done a sincere effort in analysing the rational predicaments of Indian bureaucratic set up of today. Well crafted research work. Bliss.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.