Amendment in the All India Service (Conduct) Rules, 1968
The recent amendment of the Conduct Rules applicable to the three All India Services- Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Forest Service (IFoS) has led to a huge debate and discussion amongst the different strata of the society. The civil service in the country is undergoing a phase of turmoil and is in the process of trying to re-invent itself to fulfill the needs of the hour. In such a period, would the change in the conduct rules aid in re-defining the goals for the services? Perhaps, future would tell.
The text of the AIS Conduct Rules, 1968 is accessible at the link
The text of the amendment as per the Press Information Bureau release is given below followed by an article by Venkatesh Nayak.
All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968 Amended
The Government of India has amended All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968, in rule 3(1) after sub-rule (1) by inserting sub-rule (1A) and rule 3(2) after sub-rule (2A) by inserting sub-rule (2B) and these rules are called the All India Services (Conduct) Amendment Rules, 2014.
Under sub-rule (1A), every member of the Service shall maintain:-
(i) High ethical standards, integrity and honesty;
(ii) Political neutrality;
(iii) Promoting of the principles of merit, fairness and impartiality in the discharge of duties;
(iv) Accountability and transparency;
(v) Responsiveness to the public, particularly to the weaker section;
(vi) Courtesy and good behaviour with the public.
Under sub-rule (2B), every member of the Service shall:-
(i) Commit himself to and uphold the supremacy of the Constitution and democratic values;
(ii) Defend and uphold the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of State, public order, decency and morality;
(iii) Maintain integrity in public service;
(iv) Take decisions solely in public interest and use or cause to use public resources efficiently, effectively and economically;
(v) Declare any private interests relating to his public duties and take steps to resolve any conflicts in a way that protects the public interest;
(vi) Not place himself under any financial or other obligations to any individual or organisation which may influence him in the performance of his official duties;
(vii) Not misuse his position as civil servant and not take decisions in order to derive financial or material benefits for himself, his family or his friends;
(viii) Make choices, take decisions and make recommendations on merit alone;
(ix) Act with fairness and impartiality and not discriminate against anyone, particularly the poor and the under-privileged sections of society;
(x) Refrain from doing anything which is or may be contrary to any law, rules, regulations and established practices;
(xi) Maintain discipline in the discharge of his duties and be liable to implement the lawful orders duly communicated to him;
(xii) Be liable to maintain confidentiality in the performance of his official duties as required by any laws for the time being in force, particularly with regard to information, disclosure of which may prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of State, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, friendly relation with foreign countries or lead to incitement of an offence or illegal or unlawful gains to any person;
(xiii) Perform and discharge his duties with the highest degree of professionalism and dedication to the best of his abilities."
The importance of the amendment lies in the requirement for IAS, IPS and IFoS Officers to maintain accountability and transparency amongst other values listed under the new sub-rule 1A. However clause (xii) inserted under sub-rule 2B further down, requires the officers of these three services to maintain confidentiality of information in relation to one's duties as required by existing laws and rules. Particular emphasis is placed on maintaining confidentiality and refraining from disclosing information if it may predjudicially affect the interests protected under Section 8(1)(a) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, there shall be no obligation to give any citizen, information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence; of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
What is novel about this amendment?
While many RTI activists and experts including the Second Administrative Reforms Commission have recommended replacement of the Oath of Secrecy which officers take while joining the civil service, the newly amended rules somewhat temper that Oath. Officers of these elite services have often asked questions about the contradiction between their oath and the requirements of transparency under the RTI Act.
However, these amendments also raise some fundamental questions. If AIS officers acting as Public Information Officers (PIOs), deemed PIOs and First Appellate Authorities (FAA) refuse to provide access to information in an unreasonable manner, i.e., in violation of the provisions of the RTI Act, can aggrieved applicants henceforth allege contravention of the Conduct Rules in addition to demanding imposition of penalty under Section 20 of the RTI Act?
As the AIS Rules apply to IAS, IPS and IFoS officers serving in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) also, can residents of J&K who are denied information under the J&K RTI Act, 2009 demand disciplinary action against AIS officers serving in that State for violating the value of transparency and accountability when they refuse access to information in an unreasonable manner?
Readers may please enlighten me whether violation of the requirement of maintaining transparency and accountability as ring-fenced by the twin RTI Acts and other laws and also the grounds specified under clause (xii) of sub-rule 2B amount to ' professional misconduct' and will this become a ground for launching disciplinary proceedings under the AIS (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969. These Rules are available at the link - http://persmin.nic.in/DOPT/Acts_Rules/AIS_Rules/Revised_AIS_Rules_Vol_I_Updated_Upto_31Oct2011/Revised_AIS_Rule_Vol_I_Rule_12.pdf
If it does amount to 'professional misconduct', can an aggrieved RTI applicant demand action against an AIS Officer who is either a PIO or deemed PIO or an FAA. Can he/she be a complainant or can the Central/State Information Commission recommend that disciplinary proceedings be launched even for a single instance of unreasonable contravention of the RTI Acts? So who will be the Complainant in such cases is the next question.