(Sample Material) Gist of Important Articles from IIPA Journal (Collection of Last 25 years) "Chapter – Ethics - The Other Name For Good Governance R.C. Sekhar"

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CHAPTER – Ethics - The Other Name For Good Governance R.C. Sekhar



A sociological understanding of ethics would be that they cover normof behaviour which emerge from self-discovery by people who have several subtle ways to integrate social cohesion with self-realisation. The two indicators, to show that the social system is in happy equilibrium, comprise that:

1. The system does not induce people to do to others what they would not like to be done to themselves.
2. The s yst em would yi el d the grea test being defined the way the individuals want it.


A cold systemic definition of governance is found in the Oxford Dictionary. It is the act or manner of governing or the way of control. Good governance is, therefore, that system which is accepted as good. Peter Drucker draws our attention to his concept that governing is not doing, it could b inducing or making it easy for others to do.

Pai Panandiker sees good governance as it pertains to a nation state which handles its people to lead a peaceful, orderly, reasonable, prosperous participatory lives.

Vivek Chopra defines good governance as unambiguously identifying the basic values of society and pursuing these.

Minocha” quotes World Bank guidelines and more operationally define its criteria as political accountability, availability of freedom, law abiding bureaucratic accountability, information available transparently, being effective and efficient, and cooperation between government and society”. One may see that good governance has been defined sometimes in terms of goals, sometimes in t erms of mea ns, someti mes l eft enti rel y to democratic choice of goals and sometimes with pre- ordained goals.


One may surmise from previous paragraphs that ethics and good governance cover the same ground except that governance is concerned with the acts of the ‘state’, the ‘administration’ and the ‘bureaucracy’. Nevertheless, if one chooses to judge the goodness of governance only by the outcomes, and ethics only as covering the means, the two terms may not mean the same thing. However, it is proposed to treat the two terms to mean the same except the governance would cover the role of the ‘State’ and the ‘bureaucracy’. The role could be both as ‘doers’ as well as providers of the impetus for other actors in civil society.


Is Pol iti cal Commit ment a nd E t hical  Desidaratum for Bureaucracy?

Earlier ethical texts laid great emphasis on the political neutrality of the bureaucracy. It was one of the institutional values sought to be nurtured.

A natural corollary of this was that policy making was the exclusive right of the political masters and the bureaucracy was to implement it. The socialist phase in India, spearheaded by Mohan Kumaramangalam, shook this up The bureaucracy and the judiciary were expected to be ‘committed’. The was enough evidence to show that both bureaucracy and the judiciary being staffed mostly by the upper class and castes were dragging their feet in implementing policies which would break t he a ge- ol d oppres si on. The rhetor i c of commitment had another face. Politicians, who worked under a system of short tenures, tended to take a very short-term view of things and this ha d a l so a n ugl y feat ur e of pers onal aggrandizement and corruption. Civil servants, who had a longer tenure, were expected to take a longer term view of thing; one may call this as the more ethical view of things. In this situation, it may turn out that planning and policy were the more natural functions of bureaucracy. Further, it was soon evident that policy-making and implementation can never be neatly separated in practice. The older ethics of aloofness and anonymity, therefore, lost their validity.

But soon the rhetoric of commitment of bureaucracy was no different from expecting the civil servants also to fall in line with short-term

perspective of the politician; it was an ethical booby-trap. Commitment is, therefore considered a bad word by some.


It is a legitimate ethical expectation of the abjectly poor in India that the State and its bureaucracy would bring them up to a minimum standard of quality of life. 32 This would require them often not only to ‘govern’ but actually to ‘do’. Bureaucratic effectiveness, efficiency and managerialism in poverty alleviation then becomes an important ethical guideline for the civil servants.


Another important role which the situation demands is that civil servants would provide mechanisms and assistance to the society to resolve their conflicts. Many would consider it the prime role of bureaucracy.” Some civil servants have felt that they are in better position to do so than some of the other institutions provided by the Indian Constitutions.


Anot her s trong r ole emerging for the bureaucracy is to provide a mechanism for people t o come t oget her and ens ure l ong- term conservation of the environment. Individualism has been fostered for reasons of efficiency. But efficacy is lost as the players keep away information from each other. Some have tried to correct this with carefully crafted economic legislation, using free market mechanisms. But the more useful way is by direct negotiation and collaboration. All that good governance (and ethics) will do is to pick up the threads of the sources of collaboration in the past and provide institutional mechanisms in the context of today.”


There is reason to believe that a totally universal rule of transparency and participation may be disfunctional. It is for us to discover the circumstances in which this would be so. Would it cover decisions to partition the country or to be the nuclear bomb or change the tax structure or levy a new excise duty?


The mistrust between the civil servants and t a x- pa yi ng pub li c is phenomena l i n t ax admi ni st ra ti on. The t r ue t est for ethi cs in governance is for this mistrust to be broken.


The- power of administration, which is a combination of legislative, adjudicatory and discretionary powers, needs always to be exercised for public purpose. Administrative law prescribes the parameters boundaries for proper and rational exercise of public power. The legislative power of a dmini st rat ion i s subj ect ed to s t anda rds of substantive as well as procedural ultra-vires doctrines so that the exercise of this power should not become unconstitutional and unreasonable. The concerns of t he j udi ci ar y in r ega r d t o t he reasonableness of subordinate legislation is the testimony to the fact that the rules/regulations formulat ed b y t he a dmi ni st rati on under its delega ted aut horit y mus t b e reasona bl e. Reasonableness of rules and regulations is essential for non-arbitrary exercise of power.
If the source of power itself is arbitrary then the possibility of exercise of power there under in an arbitrary manner cannot be ruled out. In addition, the judicially evolved limitation, at the stage of delegation of legislative power by the

legislature to the administration, is also enforced to uphold the sovereignty of the Constitution. The existence of the doctrine of ‘essential’ and non- essential legislative functions serves as a reminder to the legislature that it must always perform the essential legislative functions itself and may delegate only non-essential legislative functions.


The administrative adjudicatory powers, in the same way, are subjected to the requirements of natural justice or the principle of fairness. Right of hearing, rule against bias and reasoned decision are the essential major requirements of principles of natural justice in administrative decision-making process. Today, the law on applicability of the principles of natural justice in administrative decision-making lays down that administration is under obligation to act in accordance with the requirements of natural justice whenever its actions/decisions are having adverse consequences on the rights, interests, freedom, property and even on the expectations of the individuals.


The discretionary power of administration i s t he most i mporta nt a s well a s the most dangerous kind of power. It is said that there is no invention known to the human history which is as dangerous as the invention of discretionary power. Not even a nuclear or chemical weapon. It is so, beca us e the nucl ea r weapon a s such i s not dangerous. What is dangerous in this context is the discretion involved in its use. However, it is difficult to devise a system devoid of discretion. Therefore, what is important in this context is that there must exist a system to control the exercise of discretionary powers so that it may not be abused or misused.


Finally, the fundamental values of admi ni st ra ti ve l a w a r e opennes s, fai rness, impartiality, rationality and participation which go beyond the traditional concern of judicial review of administrative action.


Making Administration Citizen-friendly and Citizen-caring

Conceptually, the ideals of good governance, broadly speaking, are the same as we have seen in case of fundamental values of administrative law. The hope, expectations and aspirations of citizens from the government a re that the syst em of governance should be citizen-friendly and caring, res pons i ve a nd a ccountab l e, effecti ve a nd efficient, just, reasonable, fair, open and impartial.


The institutions of governance must be alive to’ the complaints of citizens. There should be effective and efficient complaint redressal system which must be inexpensive, transparent, impartial and rational. The internal grievance redressal system in the various government organisations needs to be restructured and reoriented to’ make it citizen-friendly.


To b e good, i t i s ess enti al t ha t the government must be open and ready to provide information. In a democracy, it is supposed that the people will participate and offer creative contribution in the process of governance. For this, it is essential that they must be provided reliable information.


One of the criteria of good governance is that the government lays down its standard of performance and is prepared to be evaluated against those standards. Though the trend of setting standards of performance has recently been started in the Union Government departments through citizen’s charter, but much more is required to be done in this direction. To some extent, the role played by t he Cons umers Court s under the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 in enforcing the standards of performance in the public utility departments are noteworthy.


Recently, the World Bank has, inter alia, identified the need of political and bureaucratic accountability as one of the requirements of good governance. The need of accountability is always linked, as mentioned earlier with the concept of power. There is no power which is not linked with a ccount ab ilit y. The power mus t a l wa ys be disciplined for its rational and purposeful use.

In the global scenario of privatisation, deregulation and degovernmentalisation, the issue of ethics in public service will occupy a position of priority. In government contracting, there is considerable potential for conflicts of interest, particularly in sensitive areas. In private sector, there is no duty of independence or impartiality as their primary concern is share holders’ interest and not the public interest. There is also the q ues t ion of t he effect of pri va t e s ector contributions to politicians and political parties which might compromise neutrality of those employed in pub li c s ervi ce. The i ss ue of independence, impartiality, integrity, objectivity,

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