Government officers can jump into politics soon after their retirement.
The government has decided to scrap a controversial proposal backed by three key ministries for the introduction of a cooling-off period for the officers who want to join politics and contest elections after retirement.
The proposal supported by ministries of home, law and personnel was shown the red flag by the government’s top law officer, attorney general GE Vahanvati, who stated such a move would be against the basic features of the constitution.
“Any such restriction whether by way of service rules or by way of an amendment of the election laws may not stand the test of valid classification under the article of the constitution which deals with equality before law,” he stated.
“As far as contesting elections is concerned, it is a fundamental and basic feature of the constitution….Unless an individual incurs disqualification from contesting according to the law, this right cannot be curtailed till there is constitutional basis for doing so,” Vahanvati said.
His opinion had been sought on a move initiated by the Election Commission, after it received complaints about senior civil servants including police officers joining politics immediately after retirement and some of them even contesting elections from constituencies which were directly under their jurisdiction.
The commission suggested that a certain cooling-off period may be provided for government officers between their retirement or quitting the job and joining a political party.
The home ministry and the department of personnel and training (DoPT), in their comments, favoured an amendment in the Representation of the People Act to add a clause for specifying this time period, but the law ministry stated that no change in law was required since this could be done by changing the relevant service rules.
Following divergent views on how to proceed on this issue, the matter was referred to Vahanvati, who stated the fundamental issue was whether the cooling-off period would be in harmony with the constitution.
“The maintenance of independence and neutrality are relevant for government servants accepting a commercial employment after retirement. That is why existing provisions require them to wait for a year after retirement to protect the government’s interests, since they might have dealt with the interests of a particular private group in service” the AG wrote.
The law ministry endorsed Vahanvati’s opinion and sent it to the DoPT for putting a lid on the matter.