After Indianmandarins stuck its neck in defence of former coal secretary H C Gupta through its widely-read and moving column captioned “Travails of a former civil servant” two days ago, the conscience of IAS officers was aroused. And on Thursday, the IAS Association held a meeting and decided to approach the government for a lasting solution to the issue of retired officers being hauled up before courts for action taken by them in good faith while in service.
After a two-hour closed-door meeting that was attended by about 60 serving and retired officers, the IAS Association decided that it would also reach out to Gupta and try to persuade him to withdraw his application filed in the court. Further, the Association’s executive body would meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to impress upon them the necessity to ensure that officers are not harassed post-retirement for actions and decisions taken by them on the orders of their political bosses.
“IAS officers are obligated to take several decisions. There can be errors of judgement in the course of work. But that does not mean there is any criminal intent or quid pro quo. In the larger interest of governance this needs to be understood,” Sanjay Bhoosreddy, secretary of the IAS Association opined.
He added “Mr. Gupta has always been known as a clean and honorable officer. For him, it seems to be a principled stand not to hire a lawyer. But considering his age and his stature, we would urge him to reconsider,” he said.
The Association also considered the other ways in which it could help out Gupta. Forming a corpus fund to Gupta’s legal fee was one of them. Officer-bearers said the association already has a corpus fund for the purpose of helping members of the fraternity.
One of the major points that came up for discussion was the amendment to the Prevention of Corruption Act. The association has already given its representation to the Select Committee of Parliament expressing reservations about Section 13 (1) D, which they say is draconian.
“To paraphrase, it says even if there is no quid pro quo or criminal intent if the result of a decision benefits someone, the officer is liable. This kind of law can be an impediment in decision-making,” Bhoosreddy said.
Officers were unanimous that while the new government has been repeatedly asking officers to speed up the decision-making process, it has not moved an inch to make the officers feel fearless. “On Civil Services Day, the PM himself urged all officers to think out of the box and take decisions without fear. But the legal environment and what is happening is clearly not compatible with that. If officers fear taking decisions on files, there will be a complete policy paralysis,” said several officers. After what happened to Gupta following his retirement, expect the officers to play safe and put all the balls in the courts of political bosses.
By M K Shukla & Rakesh Ranjan