Gist of Important National Administrative Committees Report (A.D. Gorwala Committee Report on Public Administration (1951)

Gist of Important National Administrative Committees Report

On Ethics, Integrity and Aptitude

A.D. Gorwala Committee Report on Public Administration (1951)

ETHICS AND Integrity

It is not enough to act with integrity. Justice, it has been said, must not only be done but must be seen to be done. So too moral standards must not only be observed but must be seen to be observed. In other words, they must be so observed as to eliminate the possibility of suspicion and secure the general recognition of the observers. Accordingly, for public servants-Ministers and Legislators just as much as Administrators-there is not only a standard of conduct to be maintained but a code of behaviour to be followed. The one evokes judgment, the other comment. Judgment is slow and not every one’s task. Comment is swift and almost every one’s business.

Great as is its importance in all democracies, comment has particular significance in India today. Wherever one goes, one finds unfavourable, often perhaps unjustified, comment on the standards of many of those in high places. In fact, it has been said over and over again in places as far apart as Travancore and Delhi or as Mysore and Calcutta that the principal cause of lack of confidence in Governments and administrative machinery is the many tales of improper behaviour of those in power. The psychological atmosphere produced by this persistent and unfavourable comment is itself the cause of further moral deterioration, for people will begin to adapt their methods, even for securing a legitimate right, to what they believe to be the tendency of men in power and office. Thus, if there is a wide range of stories which says that there is no use making a request to K until you get a chit from X Y Z and that the only way to get a chit from X Y Z is to pay a bribe to A B C, people, when they have to make a request to K will instinctively turn to A B C rather than go directly to the fountain head. Every instance of this nature morally degrades the person who practises it and affects the confidence of those who hear about it. It prepares them mentally, moreover, to believe in tales, however exaggerated or wild, that they may hear about those in power. This is indeed a very real danger and while, triple-plated in the armour of one’s own innocence and good intentions, the Minister or Administrator may declare “They say. What say they? Let them say”, he must remember that he does not live by himself and that the fact of what is believed about him is going to affect not only people’s estimate of him and their view of the Government of which he forms a part, but also their conduct in regard to that Government.

It is, of course, true that many of the stories one hears are exaggerated and that people are apt to believe them for various extraneous reasons. The frustration that results from the present economic difficulties of many people especially, in the middle classes, often finds a scapegoat in the alleged mis-behaviour of Governments and administrations. If things are not better, it must be because people in power are corrupt. There is also a type of mind which derives a peculiar satisfaction from criticising “our own people”. They are so near to us and so like us; they have power and we have none; consequently we are apt to exaggerate their faults and even while knowing that much of what is said about them must be false, like to believe that it is true. Allowance must also be made for political malice and the general intoxication and lack of objectivity that comes from newly acquired freedom. There is too the unfortunate trait so common among our people that love is to blame rather than to praise. Yet even after considering all these, a substratum of truth still remains out of the many allegations of lack of integrity throughout the country. Remedies must be found to induce a mode of behaviour which, if it cannot eliminate, will at least reduce very substantially these allegations and will prepare the ground for a climate of opinion which will receive such allegations with extreme incredulity.

The deviation from moral standards of Ministers, Legislators and Administrators takes various forms. These can be classified under three main heads; corruption, patronage (based on communalism, sectarianism, nepotism and favouritism) and influence. Whatever the form, there can be no doubt that it vitiates policy, weakens administration and undermines public confidence.

It may, of course, be said that the description above emphasizes unduly the likely effects of lack of moral standards. After all, there are governments, and democratic governments even today in which the bulk of the Ministers are known to be corrupt and yet the countries function and the people are able to lead reasonable lives without undue hardship. Nor do they feel particularly degraded. Their achievements in the field of science and their other cultural activities would sometimes do credit to any era or country.

Corruption, patronage and influence were the rule in England itself up to about 120 years ago, during the very period of its expansion and development. The question may be asked why then is it assumed that these evils, even if they exist, are likely to be so very detrimental to the well-being of the Indian State? As regards the first instance, countries of the nature described certainly continue to exist but they do so by the grace of a strong traditional system of administration with which there is very little interference by the Ministers and a sound and fairly prosperous peasantry which refuses to allow any intolerable oppression. Moreover, in such countries administration confines itself to absolutely essential tasks. . There is no question of building Welfare States. In rare instances, their resources are so great that they can almost be said to be able to afford corruption. The position in India is, of course, very different. Our aim is a real democracy moving towards the establishment of a proper Welfare State; we do not believe in oligarchy or despotism; our people are poor and docile; we have in every sphere a great deal of leeway to make up. As the example of China has shown, deviation from moral standards represents for us a most powerful danger, and we must devise and work with energy and goodwill all measures to meet it.

During the past few years there have been various instances in which grave allegations of a specific nature have been made by responsible parties against persons occupying the position of Ministers of Governments. Such allegations have on-occasion been the subject of debates in the Legislatures. The Ministry as a whole and the party which has put it in power having thrown their. Weight behind the Minister complained against, the debates have either been inconclusive or have ended in a vote in his favour. Thereafter. the matter has generally been ended. Enquiries into the allegations have sometimes been made by senior all-India leaders of the principal political party; occasionally their reports have been made public, but often they have remained secret. Some of the reports have exculpated those complained against and some have, in effect. Condemned them. In any case, no action has been taken. It seems fairly clear that if the public are to have confidence that moral standards do prevail in high places, arrangements must be made that no one, however highly place ,is immune from enquiry if allegations against him are made by responsible parties and a facie case exists. The form of machinery and enquiry may be different for different categories of people, but there must be a machinery and it must exist within the, framework of Government and not, in the case of Ministers, for example, within that of the political party. There should be no hushing up or appearance of hushing up for political and personal reasons.
The best form of machinery would be a tribunal to enquire, that is. a tribunal the purpose of which. is not to punish but to find out and establish facts. In other places such tribunals found it possible to enquire into the conduct of Ministers of the Crown and, high government officials without in any way making it impossible for them to continue to work and there is no reason why similar tribunals could not work satisfactorily in this country, considering the high standard of our judiciary. All facilities for directing investigation, obtaining evidence, examining documents etc. would have to be placed at the disposal of the tribunal.

The authority responsible for setting up the tribunal might, for the Central Government, be the President, and, for State Governments, the Governor acting in consultation with the President. They, in either case, on being satisfied that there was prima facie evidence, would to appoint a tribunal. An alternative would be to vest the power of appointing such tribunals in the Supreme Court.

The existence of this power would by itself have a very salutary effect on the behavior of people holding responsible positions and power, for there can be no doubt that at the present moment, with a parliamentary majority behind them, at least a few are inclined to hold that there is no difference between their will and the law. It is often difficult to produce sufficient proof of corruption to obtain a conviction in a court of law and yet there may be strong and reasonable suspicion coupled with persistent public talk. Here took effective action is essential. It should take the lines suggest in the extract below from Chapter XV of the Hyderabad Economy Committee Report :

“Corruption, it is said, is often difficult to prove. All the more reason why there should not be the least hesitation in investigating every matter in which there is ground for complaint. Punishment, too, for corruption should be exemplary, the least being dismissal from service. There is, in this matter of corruption, one clear criterion which can be of great assistance in assessing the possibility or otherwise of its existence. Reputation can be taken as almost conclusive. It may be said of an officer who has not that particular fault, that he is harsh or rude or lazy, but it may be laid down almost as a rule, that, over a period, it will not be said, of an officer who is honest, that he is dishonest. Consequently, when a strong aroma of corruption has gathered round an officer, very rarely will it be wrong specially and thoroughly to investigate his actions, his financial position and the financial position of such of his relatives and close friends as seem to have acquired a somewhatlarge share of the good things of the world. No such officer should, in any case, be kept in any position of responsibility or influence.”

There is very little doubt that corrupt public servants often escape detection because the machinery for detection is not sufficiently able and wide awake. It needs to be strengthened, if necessary, by importing from abroad officers who have made a special study of this subject. Such machinery should for the Centre be directly under the D.I.B., and the Central Government should not hesittate to have investigated by it special cases of corruption in the States when important public servants are concerned and when it is felt that local influences are preventing action being taken against them. The Bengal Administrative Committee suggested the creation of an offence in which the onus of proving that he was not guilty would fall upon a public servant, when it was known that he or his dependents had suddenly become possessed of large wealth. This has not been enacted into law ,presumably because accession to wealth by innocent means is quite possible and it might be unjust to proceed against a person merely on the ground that such wealth had come to him. There can however, be no doubt that some action is necessary when it is known or can be seen that a public servant or his dependents have become suddenly rich, for instance, when a man on a salary of Rs. 1,000 per month, or his wife or daughter buys or builds a house costing a couples of lakhs or rides about in a car worth Rs. 20,000. There should be no objection in the circumstances of this country to creating this offence and putting the onus of proof on the person concerned. On completion of’ investigation, his explanation would be obtained by the investigating staff, and, if the explanation was unsatisfactory, prosecution would be launched after obtaining proper sanction from Government.

In certain special departments which come into continuous contact with the public and regarding which there is a great deal of complaint of corruption among the subordinate staff, special detection measures are obviously needed. It should not be difficult, for instance, to appoint one or two experienced detectives as clerks to secretly watch the behaviour of their associates and superiors. Action could then he taken on reports received. That corruption cannot be checked in a particular department where all work has to be done under one roof within certain specific premises is incomprehensible and would seem to indicate either lack of determination or of the imagination needed to try out novel measures. The public forms its conclusion about the whole Government on the basis of its experience of one portion of it. From this point of view, the most important Central departments are the revenue producing branches of the Finance Ministry, Income-tax and Customs, and the Commerce and Industry Ministry. These it is with which the members of the public come most into contact. If, therefore, it is Government’s desire that the public should have confidence in its administrative machinery and methods, it must ensure that at least in these there is firmness and consistency of policy, efficient and expeditious despatch of business and courteous and considerate treatment of the public. Only by taking great pains at both the policy-making and the executive ends can this be achieved. On the Income-tax side, the real complaint of the public is that while small men are often troubled quite unnecessarily, tax-evaders, whose assessment should run into lakhs, seem to escape.

The failure of the Income-Tax Investigation Commission to produce any real results and the ease with which the most blatant tax-evaders seem to be able to manage their affairs undisturbed has caused a very widespread belief in the importance of Government when pitted against really’ influential and wealthy people. Nor is it only past dues that the Income-tax Department would seem to be unable to recover, fresh illegal gains too the public feel remain untaxed. Unless special measures can be taken to remedy this state of affairs, the public will continue to feel indignant and contemptuous about the Income-tax Department. There would seem to be very few complaints about corruption from those sections of the population which give proper accounts and submit their forms after examination by Chartered Accountants etc. The complaints seem mostly to be from those who either do not keep their accounts properly or seek to obtain special benefits. That there is a certain amount of corruption is undoubted. Corruption in the Customs, it is stated, has neither increased particularly nor decreased significantly. It is found at the lower levels but has not reached any very large proportions. Work is done with a fair amount of despatch. There is, however, considerable room for improvement both in work and in honesty. Hardly anybody who has had anything to do with the activities of the previous Industry and Supply and Commerce Ministries has anything to say in their favour. Failure both of policy and implementation are alleged. There is little doubt that the handling of cloth control, for instance, typifies all the points that should be avoided in any control. Lack of planning, continuous shifts in policy, incapacity for independent thought, inability to withstand pressure and influence, these are pointed out as some of the defects in the Industry and Supply Department’s management. The Commerce Ministry had gained an unenviable notoriety in respect of the amenability of some of its principal officials to the wishes of big business. In addition, there was alleged to be considerable corruption in the grant of licences and permits, more especially, import licences and permits. A very undesirable feature was the leakage of information about changes which enabled those who got the information before others to benefit. Now it is obvious that if the new department of Commerce and Industry is to run satisfactorily, it should be well-manned both as regards quality and adequacy. Specially selected officers must be in charge and adequate supervisory staff must be given to the sections dealing with the public. There should also be surprise checks and inspections and measures to prevent corruption as already indicated. The reputation of Government is greatly affected by the running of these departments. Businessmen often blame their own corruption on to these departments. What they say is “How can we be expected not to be corrupt when we have to spend so much to get our legitimate rights from these departments ?”

Various classes of complaints that have come to notice are summed up below :

After the announcement of Government policy, there is frequently a long delay in the issue of administrative instructions and still more so in the issue of necessary licences. Policy and instructions should invariably issue together. In a number of instances, it would seem that the policy has been changed after it has been announced to suit the wishes of certain influential persons. Sometimes Government’s decisions are known in Delhi and telegraphed abroad by the press correspondents before they have been announced in India. Strong action against persons found to have been cheating either in the production of false evidence or in obtaining licences by unfair means should be taken. Trade interests concerned should be consulted and advice obtained from them regarding what they consider the satisfactory procedure, sometime in advance of issue of export quotas and not after the quotas are announced. The delays when more than one department has to be consulted are occasionally so inordinate that opportunities to export or import goods are lost. Prices jump up and if imports are in question, India has to pay more. Although import licences are issued on the basis of past performance, yet there have been cases in which new comers have been given very large licences. When specific allegations of corruption were made in the public press against individual public servants by name in the past, the officer ‘was generally expected to clear his name by taking ‘the matter to the courts. Government would sanction expenses on the understanding that if the officer lost his case, he would have to reimburse Government, and if he got damages, the cost would be the first charge on damages. The filing of several such prosecutions had a very healthy effect on the press and prevented their spreading unfounded sensational tales. No such prosecutions would seem to have been filed in recent years although there has been no lack of very specific allegations against even ,senior people in the Government of India.

Another useful device is that of the prompt contradiction. This necessitates examination of particularly critical newspapers’ immediately on issue, listing all the allegations made, prompt inquiry into them and immediate contradiction by letter to the editor of such as are false or misconceived. This can, of course, be doubly effective if, where Government is wrong, it frankly admits its error and says it is taking steps to remedy it. The idea that some newspapers are mere rags, that it does not matter what they say and that one need pay no attention to them cannot be accepted, for though Government may pay no attention to them, large numbers of the people do and what the people think must be a matter of great concernto a democratic Government. These two lines of action combined are likely to have a very deterrent effect on the publication of false and sensational reports. If, for instance, out of six matters that have been raised, about four Government is able to say that they are completely false, and in regard to the other two-points out what the correct position is, if there is any mistake admits it and says it is taking steps to rectify it, the effect on the people will be excellent. In addition, where a libellous and false allegation is made, prosecution should be instituted without delay. A realisation that the era of easy allegationsis Over will reinforce the feeling that Government is beginning to be watchful and responsive.

It is often stated that the procedure laid down for departmental enquiries prevents quick disposal and that consequently punishment, when imposed, comes so long after the offence that it fails to strike terror and loses all deterrent effect. There is no real reason why this should be so. A departmental enquiry ought to be completed with reasonable diligence within three m cases of special importance when the record is likely to voluminous it may be worthwhile to appoint an office on special duty to hold such an enquiry. Also in an area where there are large number of enquiries constantly Cropping up, and the officers likely to be appointed have their hands already full with other work, it may be better to appoint a full-time Enquiry Officer for the sole purpose of finishing of all departmental enquiries speedily. In a country in which it has long been recognised to be a man’s clear duty to provide for his relatives, near and distant, as well as for his Biradri or brotherhood, very special measures are needed to deal with the many evils and injustices that comes from patron- age.

In many cases there is a conflict between private and public virtue. In the interests of the country obviously public virtue must prevail, but in order to avoid the difficulty inherent is not following the accepted standard of private virtue, it would be desirable to reduce as far as possible the scope of the patronage that can be exercised by any person in authority. Patronage should, in fact. Be eliminated or at least narrowed down to the unavoidable minimum, by the fullest use of the Public Service Commission, Selection Boards and Selection Committees. The latter two if they do not exist should be created for filling any vacancies, that may arise in grades and categories which do not come within the purview of the Public Service Commission. and the Public Service Commission should supervise their work both at the stage of initial recruitment and at subsequent important stages of promotion. Even for temporary appointments, candidates should be chosen by Selection Boards or Committees. The tendency amongst people in power to reproduce their own kind, when disposing of appointments and making promotions, has not gone unnoticed in other democracies working under the Parliamentary system. So strong has been the feeling in some against the exercise of patronage that the task of staffing, promoting, transferring and organising the entire public service has been handed over to a statutory body responsible to Parliament alone for the performance of its functions and entirely outside the control of the Ministers. This would seem to be the position of the Public Service Board in Australia. It may not be possible perhaps to go to the same extent in this country at the present time in view of the extensive staff employed and the vast distances at which it works, but avoidance of patronage and the adoption of all measures to prevent its occurrence must always be borne in mind. Patronage in effect means giving something to somebody, which is not rightfully his or which cannot be said to be rightfully his until the claims of others have been considered, because he bears a special relationship of some kind or other to the person dispensing the gift. It is thus doubly cursed; not only is the patron cursed because of the injustice he does but the receiver of patronage is also cursed because he begins to believe that what IS necessary for advancement is not work or merit but relationship or contact. This frame of mind has an extremely deleterious effect on a public servant. It also affects detrimentally society generally, for examples of this nature tend to draw people away from legitimate duty towards effort to obtain contacts and influence. That this frame of mind has already many adherents is clear from the accounts one hears of the behaviour of some young officers and senior students in many parts of the country. The importance attached by many people to having a “god-father” is some measure of the strength of this feeling. Many who have had recent experience will bear out that this account is not overcoloured. It would sometime seem that all merit resides in members of a particular community when the Minister in charge of a department happens to belong to that community.

If a democracy is to function well, government servants must be non-political and free from party bias or ’allegiances. One of the worst disservices any political party could do the country would be to destroy this non-political attitude on the part of government servants. Whichever the government in power, government’s work continues. If a government servant becomes a partisan, neither can he do that work with the impartiality essential, nor can the political party in power, if it belongs to the camp opposed to him, trust him in the discharge of his duties. Once the bias of political partisanship attaches itself to government servants, some form of the spoils system is inevitable. Countries in which this system has Prevailed have realised the evils that followed from it and having modified its worst excesses, are now attempting to get rid of it completely. We, who have been in a favoured position in this respect, should not allow our system to deteriorate.

This point is of special importance at the present time when an election is in the offing. To some of the men in power the temptation is great to use the influence of government servants, even to the extent of arranging transfers of suitable instruments, to secure power again, but they must realise that this very short-sighted policy is bound to recoil upon them within a few gears and is disastrous in the larger interests of the country. Some may feel that for the good of this country there is no room for anything except a single party and that accordingly it is perfectly justifiable to use government servants to secure the success of that party. Those who think in this strain, however, patriotic they may be, do not understand or want democracy. The good public servant, in any case, welcomes a position in which he can exercise complete impartiality and conduct his duties without leaning in any direction. The Prime Minister has on more than one occasion declared his complete agreement with the view that elections must be free and fair and that no attempt must be made by government servants to influence votes by their actions, either by direct canvassing or by doing favours or disfavours to produce the necessary results. It would, however, seem that this position is not quite clearly understood in some areas and that there is considerable danger of pressure being put on government servants, more especially, where splinter groups predominate. No categorical remedy is possible for this state of affairs. A joint declaration by all leaders of parties for swearing any attempt to use government servants or the influence of government servants would probably be useful .

It is related of a certain Collector that a member of a local Legislature appeared before him and made a request. The Collector said he would let him have an answer after two days. Two days later, he explained to the M.L.A. very politely why his request could not be accepted, and how, if it was, various people would be detrimentally affected. The M.L.A. with equal politeness asked if he could use his telephone. Permission being given, he phoned up the Minister and said that he had made this request and had been given this answer, that he was naturally very disappointed and trusted the Minister would take necessary action. He then handed over the telephone to the Collector saying the Minister wished to speak to him. The Minister said he knew the facts of the case and desired that what the M.L.A. asked should be done. The Collector hesitated, suggested sending him the papers for consideration and attempted to argue. The Minister was adamant and ended the coversation by saying “Well you know my views. You can do what I want or ............ “. The Collector in this case decided to do what the Minister wanted and passed orders accordingly. The story came out through the M.L.A. who used it to let his friends and constituents know how Collectors should be dealt with. This is a blatant instance of undue influence by a Legislator.

There is no doubt that a good deal of this kind of thing prevails, either in this very open form or more subtly. Circulars are issued in some provinces calling upon officials not to be influenced at all by requests in individual cases from Legislators. At the same time, the officer knows that the Minister, except in a very few instances, is not at all likely to be happy if prominent supporters are displeased. Consequently, even when an exceptionally conscientious man deals with everything exactly on merits and refuses to allow himself to be influenced at all, he often does so knowing that anything may happen. He may continue without the least disturbance or it may speedily be found that his abilities could be better employed elsewhere. This is indeed a very grave evil. It is prevalent to a lesser or greater degree in most parts of the country, the degree depending upon the outlook of the Ministers and the number of conscientious officers available. From the influencability of Ministers there follows another danger, that of the “slick” officer who attempts to ingratiate himself with the Legislator by doing him favours and anticipating his wishes in order to use him, that is, his influence with the Ministry, for his own advancement. Of such too, in many places, examples are not lacking.

The only real remedy for this state of affairs lies in raising the calibre of the Legislators, the sense of responsibility of the Minister and the character of the officer. The first two again really depend on the selection of candidates by the political parties, for it is from these candidates that the Legislators will be elected and from the Legislators the Ministers will be chosen. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that men of character, capable of disinterested approach to problems and of deciding matters on merits even against themselves should be selected as candidates. It is true that suck men are not often prominent in political life. They are to be found among the followers rather than the leaders, but the future of the country depends on how large a proportion of our new M.L.As. and M.Ps. belong to this class. It is for the Parliamentary Boards to make a real effort to select, as far as possible, only such people.

To such of the officers as have imbibed fully the old tradition of impartial service, decision on merits comes naturally. Some of these, however, have since learnt to be courtiers. Among officers recently promoted to higher positions of responsibility, apprehension of results and expectation of favours are often decisive. Recruits to the youngest service seem to have acquired more of the tradition of the old service. In this matter, however, the responsibility finally rests upon the Ministry. A Government will in the long run get the servants it deserves, though the inculcation of high standards of behaviour among government servants more especially the juniors by the seniors may healthy traditions and make degeneration less easy for quite a long time help to preserve.

Nothing perhaps tends to bring a Government or party so completely into disrepute as the feeling that the strings are being pulled by wealthy interests and that Ministers and leaders posture and mouth according as they are played upon by their masters. Dangerous as the association of politics with wealth is at any time, it becomes particularly dangerous when wealth takes the form of large industrial and speculative interests and the necessities of the time involve a great deal of interference by Government in commerce and industry. The intelligent public dreads this close association, because it knows well that, however, noble Government’s declarations may be, in the end these interests will use it as they desire. From this there devolves a very special responsibility on Ministers.

Their conduct must be such as to give no room for any feeling that any special interest is likely to have an undue influence over them. However close friendship with such interests may have been before acceptance of office circumstances necessitate extremely correct behaviour thereafter. Thus no question should arise of being the guests of. or living in the houses of individuals representing such interests. This should be the rule even as regards thoroughly respectable individuals. Very much more so should this be the case when the persons concerned are generally reputed to behave in an anti-social manner. In the state of our laws it may not be possible to hang influential black-marketeers and tax-evaders from the lamp posts, but it is certainly within every Minister’s capacity not to consult them. to show them no favours, to avoid having social contact with them. to refuse to make speeches at gatherings where they take a leading part or to accept purses from them. It is not unusual to find in the Central Capital and elsewhere public servants being entertained by individuals or firms who have, have had, or are likely to have request to make to them. There is no special reason whv such entertainment should be accepted. While it may not result in corruption, it is likely to induce a frame of mind favourable to the acceptance of the requests made. Such entertainment invariablv causes talk and it is desirable that Government should set its face firmly against it.

A word needs to be said about the tours of officers and Ministers. These can on occasions cause considerable demoralisation and corruption:-

“Ministers should be the first to set an example in this matter. We are told that, in the past, on occasion their visits to the headquarters of a district have thrown a considerable additional burden on the Taluqdar, as they sometimes travel without making their own arrangements and relv on the Taluqdar to provide all supplies.

The practice of touring without payment needs firm checking at all levels. and we trust Government will make offenders realise that it will not do to disobey its orders on this point. Honest service can hardly be expected from subordinates if they are called upon to spend large sums for the entertainment of their superiors on tour. In such cases, they have no recourse but to fall back on assistance from the rich or levy contribution on the poor. The rich man will not pay unless he gets some return. and the poor, except under duress.”

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