PM Narendra Modi has laid down 19 new commandments for the civil service that not only requires officers to be driven by merits alone, in taking decisions, but also demands they be courteous and responsive to the public.
The rules require officers to maintain political neutrality, declare any private interests relating to their public duties, not take decisions to benefit family and friends and to use public resources efficiently and economically.
This is the first focussed effort to spell out at one place what is expected from the civil service. The UPA government intended to incorporate a similar set of guidelines in a new civil services law six years back but the plan never took off.
Modi has incorporated these changes in the All India Services (Conduct) rules. In the first instance, these rules would be only applicable for the IAS, IPS and Indian Forest Service officers. A similar change would be made in conduct rules for all officials later.
Placing the guidelines under the conduct rules implies that the government can initiate disciplinary proceedings against officers for violating the code. The nature of the punishment — if found guilty — would depend on the circumstances of the case and could vary from dismissal to a censure.
Besides spelling out the legitimate expectations from the civil service, a government official told HT, the new guidelines puts people at the heart of governance.
For instance, he said, there were a few provisions that explicitly asks officers to be responsive, courteous and well behaved with the public, to act with fairness and refrain from doing anything contrary to not just the law but also established practices.