Neutrality of Civil Services
Sardar Patel had made the following observations in the Constituent Assembly to support the continuance of the pre-independence civil service structure:-
“It needs hardly to be emphasized that an efficient, disciplined and contended civil service assured of its prospects as a result of diligent and honest work, is a sine-qua non of sound administration under democratic regime even more than under an authoritarian rule.
The service must be above party and we should ensure that political considerations, either in its recruitment or in its discipline and control, are reduced to the minimum if not eliminated altogether.”
Unfortunately, this vision of civil service neutrality no longer holds good. Changes in governments particularly at the state level often lead to wholesale transfer of civil servants. Political neutrality is no longer the accepted norm with many civil servants getting identified, rightly or wrongly, with a particular political dispensation.
There is a perception that officers have to cultivate and seek patronage from politicians for obtaining suitable positions even in the Union Government. As a result, the civil services in public perception are often seen as increasingly politicized.
As observed by Paul Appleby civil servants should not confuse ‘political neutrality’ with ‘programme neutrality’. At the stage of policy formulation, the role of civil servants is to render free and frank advice which should not be coloured by any political considerations. Once a policy or programme has been approved by the elected government, it is the duty of the civil servant to faithfully and enthusiastically see to its implementation. Not carrying out this task in the right spirit would amount to misconduct inviting appropriate sanctions.
Under the concept of neutrality, bureaucracy serves as a permanent instrument of government under conditions of changing party control, by acknowledging and adopting neutrality.
The concept of neutrality has three implications:
- public confidence in the non-political character of public service,
- Confidence of ministers belonging to any political party in the loyalty of the permanent subordinates, and
- High morale of public servants based on the confidence that promoting would be made not on the basis of political considerations but on merit. This was developed in Britain Switzerland and other countries that follow British pattern of administration.
A neutral model of bureaucracy cannot be practiced arbitrarily. Moreover, neutrality is a state mind and there can be no effective law to ensure it. Neutrality of bureaucracy is a characteristic feature of Weberian ideal type.
This is not a universal phenomenon. The neutrality has been accepted to the because their ultimate principles of action have not been in conflict with the policies of the politic parties in power, nor the governments have sought to adopt from these principles in action. However this concept has been outdated.
The principle of anonymity flows from (i) the Civil Servants work as instrument of political master and (ii) in a parliamentary democracy they work under the cover of the ministerial responsibility.
Minister assumes responsibility for their good or bad conduct and defends them against public criticize they should act in the name of their person. For this reason they should not give any press or pub statements so that they do not violate the principle of anonymity. The only exception probably is giving some factual information to the press that too in the name of government.
In recent years the term “committed bureaucracy” has received a wide circulation and the top political executives (president, prime minister etc.) of different countries are seriously thinking about employing bureaucracy for the purposes of development and this could not be done if bureaucracy’s loyalty exists somewhere. Let us clarify the point. If bureaucracy is not committed to the cause of development it would not be possible to reach the goal.
The Weberian model of beaurocracy concentrates on the main functions of the maintenance of law and order and to run the administration. Though this role of bureaucracy is not relegated to insignificance, more importance is given to its role in development. From this approach the term committed bureaucracy has been coined. It is said that all the top ranking civil servants make attainment of development goal their prime objective.
If the bureaucrats fail to do this the political system will not realise the goal of progress. During the Great Depression of the 1930s the American president adopted several anti-depression measures and majority of them were declared by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.The president and other top political executives thought of a committed judiciary. Moreover, every party has its own programme and ideology and, coming to power, it wants to translate it into reality. This cannot be done if the bureaucracy is not committed. In the background of development, now-a-days, the commitment of bureaucracy to development has been stressed.
The term committed bureaucracy, in fact, originated in the United States during the period of Great Depression when the American president wanted to accelerate the pace of development through bureaucracy and this he did by forcing the bureaucracy to implement the New Deal measures.
During the period of Mrs. Gandhi’s rule the political climate at provincial level started changing. Many new regional parties emerged at provincial level and came to power. Some states like Bihar, U.P., Haryana, and Punjab etc. witnessed political opportunism. Tall promises were made to win elections. Floor crossing, defections, attempts to topple Governments; betrayal of people’s faith and consequently political instability and frequent changes in provincial Governments became the order to the day. All this resulted in intensification of competitive politics.
She and her colleagues could not appreciate the value of efficient and impartial civil services. They did precious little to check deteriorating standards of the service. The changes in the political complexion of the nation was reflected in the performance of civil services and its capacity to work impartially without any fear or favor.
During 1969 to 1974 personality cult was promoted. The officers were not expected to be as loyal to the Constitution, as they had to be to their ministers. Mrs Gandhi desired the bureaucracy to be completely committed to the ruling party. On a sustained and systematic basis, the process of committed bureaucracy flourished, thus undermining the integrity, values, ethos and confidence of the service. Officers were supposed to be the servicemen to carry out the orders of political bosses.
The simplest of the arm-twisting measures, which politicians took in their hands, was to take the power of transfers, posting, and extensions. It placed the officers at the receiving end. Political patronage gave encouragement to corrupt and ambitious officials. Shrewd officers, who could get away, if any wrong done, were given more importance.