[Ethics] Conduct rules: Meaning, implication, examples, misconduct vs.crime and case studiesDevendra Vishwakarma
- Conduct rules
- Difference: Court vs Departmental Proceedings
- Conduct rules: Examples
- #1: Conduct Rules4 Office Life
- #2: Conduct Rules4 Public Life
- #3: Conduct rules4 Financial Life
- #4: Conduct Rules4 Personal life
- Cases studies
- Seeking written order when unnecessary
- Disobeying written order where necessary
- Hiring private citizen for public duty
- Unauthorized absence #1
- Unauthorized absence #2
- Social service during duty hours
- Seeking charity for ‘good’ cause
- Just because computer is not working
- Misc. cases
Following vigilance/corruption related topics in this article series + a few case studies in each:
- conduct rules
- types of enquiries, prevention of corruption act
- traps in bribery cases
- disproportionate assets
- Art.311, departmental inquiry/proceedings
- various penalties
Anyways, Let’s start with conduct rules.
- Conduct Rules lay down clear principles as to what the Government expects from its employees.
- Conduct rules apply to both official AND personal life of the government servant.
- If an official violates conduct rules, he may face warning/disciplinary action/departmental proceedings. They are very different from regular Criminal court proceedings. How?
Difference: Court vs Departmental Proceedings
|Court proceedings / Criminal trial||Departmental proceedings / inquiry/Misconduct|
|Judge hears both sides||Inquiry officer hears both sides.|
|Judge gives punishment.||
||Double jeopardy doesn’t apply. e.g
We’ll see more about Art. 311 in separate article later.
|Judge cannot hear the matter if he himself is a witness / complainant in that crime.||
||guilty employee gets
by the way warning, displeasure, suspension=doesn’t count as punishment. We’ll see more about types of penalties in later article.
|Hear-say evidence is not admissible e.g. Witness claims “someone told me that Accused person had affair with that dead woman.”||Hear-say evidence may be accepted in a departmental inquiry provided it has reasonable nexus and credibility.|
|Sting operations may be admissible subject to certain criteria, such as the court being satisfied about the authenticity of the evidence and the identity of the persons depicted.||Inquiry officer may accept Sting operation as evidence without such caveats. He may even hold the government servant guilty- even if there is reasonable doubt e.g. video is not showing his clear face.|
|Tape recorded conversations are admissible in court. But there has to be strong corroborative evidences, otherwise termed as weak evidences.||Tape-recorded evidence can be freely admitted without such caveats.|
|Document cannot be accepted as ‘evidence’ IF the person who wrote the document, is not available for cross-examination.||Can be accepted, even if document maker is not available for cross-examination.|
|Evidence of accomplice needs corroboration.||Evidence of accomplice may be accepted without corroboration.|
|Circumstantial evidences enough for conviction- but must complete the chain of events.||Can be accepted without completing chain of events.|
Conduct rules: Examples
- Conduct rules differ from service to service. example All India services have their own conduct rules, central services have their own rules and state services have their own rules.
- Here goes the list of some conduct rules (not-exhaustive), that should help you write the case studies related answer in a right direction.
I’ve classified them in four types: conduct rules affecting your
- office life
- public life
- financial life
- personal life
#1: Conduct Rules4 Office Life
Respecting the hierarchy
- Should apply his best judgment- except when acting under the direction of his superior officer. He shall obtain such direction in writing. If impracticable to get written order on spot, then get the written order as soon thereafter as possible.
- Should not evade the responsibility by asking written instruction of superior, where it is not necessary in the scheme of work distribution. (see the first case study at bottom)
- Must not bring outside influence upon any superior authority for transfer, posting, promotion etc.
- Ensure his subordinates show integrity and devotion to duty.
- For office matters, he must not directly approach court/tribunals for grievance redressal before exhausting remedies in the departmental hierarchy. (i.e. Complaining to his boss=>his boss=>his boss…..if none of them helps, then approach court/tribunal.)
- Must not engage a private person to perform his official duties. (see case study at bottom)
- Unauthorized absence from duty=misconduct. (see case study at bottom)
- Cannot do social / charitable service during office hours. (see case study at bottom)
- Must finish his assignments within time and quality limits.
- Must not to adopt dilatory tactics or wilfully cause delays in official work.
- Needs to show respect, courtesy, cooperation to everyone.
Must not discriminate agains working woman. Must not indulge in sexual harassment- including
- physical contact and advances
- a demand or request for sexual favours
- sexually coloured remarks
- showing pornography
- any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature
- Must not join any employee union/ labour union without government permission.
- Must not threaten to go on strike to meet his demand / demand of any other Government servant
- hunger strike, refusal to accept salary, non-cooperation with superior officer and other ‘satyagraha’ type activities also forbidden.
- maintain absolute integrity
- maintain devotion to duty
- Avoid conduct unbecoming of a Government servant. It is not possible to have an exhaustive list of actions which would be unbecoming of a Government servant- but overall, any conduct that goes against the general norms of morality, decency, decorum and propriety = conduct unbecoming of a government servant.
Misconduct in previous job
- Action can be taken against a Government servant in respect of misconduct committed by him in his previous employment- IF it has rational connection with his present job that renders him unfit and unsuitable.
- e.g. Person working as accountant. but later court declared him guilty of forgery in an old case related to his previous job.=> present department can take action. (And double jeopardy doesn’t apply).
#2: Conduct Rules4 Public Life
- Without government permission, he must not accept any honor, ceremony, meeting, rally held in his honor (or in honor of another employee).
- Farewell party during retirement/transfer=permitted.
- Simple and inexpensive entertainments arranged by public bodies or institutions=permitted.
Vindication of official acts
Suppose public/press has made some remarks against him for his official conduct. He cannot file defamation suit against them or make press statements, without government permission.
Freedom of Speech
- Shall not divulge information he got during his official capacity-to a third party- except under good faith or when required by the law / departmental rules.
- shall guard the official secrets. (Except where RTI applies.)
- Shall not make any public utterance that would embarrass relations between
- union vs state
- state vs state
- India vs foreign country
- Criticizing any policy of union / state government.
- Needs government permission before publishing book / writing in newspaper / appearing on TV – radio EXCEPT literary, artistic or scientific character.
- He shall not do above things even anonymously or pseudonymously.
- must not take part in politics
- must not give election fund/ assistance to any political party
- Can vote. But must not tell his preference to other people.
- Must not display any election symbols on his person, vehicle or home.
- Must not participate in rally, dharna-pradarshan, and demonstration without government permission.
#3: Conduct rules4 Financial Life
- Must show diligence and probity in spending public money.
- Cannot demand funds from anyone without government permission- even for good / charitable cause. (see the case study at bottom)
- Must not make speculative investment in share market. Frequent purchase or sale of bonds/equity=counts as speculation. Because speculative=risky=can make him indebted. and indebted employee= more likely to accept bribes.
- Must not buy shares/bonds from people he has official dealings with. because this opens pandora’s box for bribe transfer. e.g contractor sells his shares worth 1 lakh (at current market rate) to engineer at a throwaway price of just Rs.10000.
- An occasional investment in Mutual funds/ ULIP etc. permitted. But has to notify government about such ‘movable’ assets.
- Must not take any Private trade or employment without government permission.
- Must not accept any fees from any public / private authority without government permission. (e.g. can write scientific article in magazine without government permission but IF magazine editor gives him money for the article=> must get government’s permission before taking that money).
- Must not involve in management of any cooperative society, bank, and company without government permission.
- If he is an officer bearer in any Co-operative Societies, Institutions, clubs, gym etc. –must maintain its finances with full integrity.
- Must not promote his family members’ insurance/commission agency.
- Must not lend money to any person at interest rate.
- Must not borrow/lend money to any person he has official dealings with. (same for his family members)
- Can borrow/lend money to a friend/relative – but only small amount, temporary period, interest free.
- Must avoid Insolvency and habitual indebtedness.
Must furnish details about movable or immovable property bought/sold by him or his family. (including purchase, sale, renting, leasing, mortgage, gift.)
|employee rank||furnish asset details to|
|class 3, class 4||head of the office|
|class 2, class 1||head of the department.|
- must not rent/lease his government quarter (house) to a third party
- must avoid habitual indebtedness or insolvency
- Must not make any investment/renting/leasing that is likely to embarrass or influence him in the discharge of his official duties. (same for his family member)
#4: Conduct Rules4 Personal life
family=any person bound to him by blood / marriage, and wholly dependent on him.
- Bigamy prohibited. Even if bigamy permitted under his religion’s personal law- he needs to get government permission.
- Must not give dowry, take dowry or demand dowry.
- Must not neglect his parents, wife and children.
- Must not employ child labor
- Observe age limit in marriage. Must not marry off his underage children, must not attend such ceremonies of other relatives.
- Must not involve in adultery, moral turpitude etc. Moral turpitude is not limited to sex and unnatural relationship. It implies depravity and wickedness of character – anything that could shock the moral conscience of society in general.
- protect environment, wild life and cultural heritage and other fundamental duties;
Public life of family members
- Shall not use his position or influence to get job for his family member in a public/private office.
- needs government permission before his son / daughter to gets job in any private undertaking that has official dealings with government
- make all attempts to deter his family member from joining any organization that is involved in subversive/ criminal activities.
- must inform his departmental authority, if he is working with/under a government servant who happens to be his relative.
- Must not accept gifts, free transport, boarding, lodging, lavish hospitality or frequent hospitality etc. from anyone he has official dealings with.
- Must not allow his family member/ middlemen to accept ^such gifts/hospitality either.
- A casual/occasional meal, lift or other social hospitality = doesn’t count as gift.
- Can accept gifts during weddings, anniversaries or religious functions. As long as they’re within reasonable limits and social norms.
- Must declare expensive gifts received by him / his family member.
Arrest and detention
- If arrested, he must inform the details to his superiors.
- If spends more than 48 hours in police custody=automatically deemded suspended.
and ofcourse Desi Liquor
- Avoid consumption of intoxicating drinks and drugs- even in areas where it is legally permitted.
- Must not come to duty while under influence of liquor/drugs.
- Must not appear drunk in public places – even during off-duty hours.
anyways, enough of conduct rules, let’s check some case studies:
Seeking written order where unnecessary
- (Suppose) an SDM is allowed to clear NGO project grants worth upto Rs.5 lakh on his own discretion. SDM Prem Chopra cleared a file in good faith, but NGO had played some mischief. Yet, Department held Prem guilty and transferred him to a non-focal punishment post. New SDM DevAnand gets the charge. Another NGO comes up with new project file. ‘Cautious’ DevAnand forwards the application to DM Pran and seeks his ‘written’ instructions.
hint: Yes, Evading responsibility- seeking ‘written’ instructions of superior, where it is unnecessary in the scheme of work distribution. Same thing is happening post 2G, CWG and Coalgate. Officers dont take decision on any project, keep forwardning files upward. Projects are stalled, affects HDI, GDP, Foreign investment.
Disobeying written order
- Honest employee GuruDutt is suspended by his corrupt Head of Department Prem Chopra. Prem also sends written instruction to Accounts officer DevAnand to stop Guru’s salary with immediate effect and pay him subsistence allowance only. Guru is filing writ petition and expects that court will give him favorable verdict within a week. Dev decides to delay on Prem’s instruction and sanctions full salary to GuruDutt.
hint: Yes, Suspended employee is not entitled to full salary- he gets subsistence allowance only. Therefore Prem’s written order is valid, irrespective of how corrupt Prem Chopra himself is. Dev must not apply his ‘best judgment’ in such situation. Dev’s decision of giving full salary to suspended employee= insubordination and causing loss to public exchequer.
Hiring private citizen for public duty
- Collector DevAnand is overburdened with work related to land records and RTIs. He has requested the revenue department to give him an additional clerk but department refused citing budgetary constraints. Vivek Mushraan is a fresh graduate preparing for UPSC exam from his home. He offers to help part-time, for just 1500 per month. Dev hires him and gives salary from his own pocket.
hint: Dev must not engage a private citizen to perform official duties. Because such private citizen is not bound by the conduct rules, he can play mischief and bring disrepute to DevAnand’s office.
Unauthorized absence #1
- Dev recently cleared UPSC exam and got allotted to Revenue service. In his first posting itself, He is shocked by the level of corruption in the department. His juniors and superiors are stonewalling all of his attempt to provide honest administration. Dev is frustrated, decides to re-appear in UPSC exam again to become an IAS/IPS/IFS hoping he’ll have more freedom there. He stops reporting on duty. Boss Prem Chopra is happy that ‘headache’ employee is gone- continues sanctioning DevAnand’s full salary, takes no action on Dev’s unauthorized absence from duty.
hint: Unauthorized absence from duty = misconduct. Both are guilty of wasting public money.
Unauthorized absence #2
- Young DCP DevAnand leads a team to another state, to arrest a mafia don involved in ransom cases in his city. But for the fear of information leakage, he doesn’t inform his superiors or the local police. During the raid don escapes, there is gun-battle in a public place causing lot of panic and fear among local public. Commissioner Pran reprimands DevAnand in front of his staff for this #epicfail, calling him idiot/incompetent etc. Dev feels emotionally hurt and becomes Devdas, stops reporting on duty and goes to USA to spend time with his cousin. Pran does not take any action thinking “hotshots like DevAnand are not suitable for police work but it is difficult to remove an All India service officer because of the protections under article 311. so it’s good he is gone by himself, I’ll just ignore him.”
hint: Unauthorized absence from duty = misconduct. Both are guilty of wasting public money.
- Same case like earlier. DCP DevAnand failed to arrest the Don despite all good faith. Commissioner Pran reprimands DevAnand in front of his staff for this #Epicfail. Dev feels emotionally hurt, goes on a hunger strike demanding apology from the commissioner.
hint: using hunger strike to compel superior officer to do xyz thing=misconduct. It doesn’t matter how ‘noble’ DevAnand’s act was. Because Taking cue from him, other employees might also resort to similar hunger strike/ satyagraha in futre.= breaks the office discipline.
Social service during duty hours
- Honest police officer DevAnand is given ‘punishment’ posting in a training academy. He has hardly any work to do, except taking salute from cadets in morning parade and occasional signature on files. So, every day he leaves the office after lunch recess, to teach poor kids in the local slum area. His juniors don’t complaint and superiors don’t care, and so Dev continues his social service.
hint: cannot do social work during office hours. It doesn’t matter how noble Dev’s act is. Because taking cue from him, even other lazy employees may also run away after lunch, in pretext of doing social service. Thus, in the long run, this will break entire work discipline in the office.
Seeking charity for ‘good’ cause
- RTO officer DevAnand has to sign hundreds of applications related to driving license and vehicle registration everyday. Clerk Prem Chopra keeps a box on his own table and tell every visitor: “This box is for Uttarakhand disaster victims. If you donate any amount- I’ll keep your file on top when I bring the bunch to Dev-saab for signature, thus your file will be cleared quickly.” Dev knows about this but chooses to ignore because Prem genuinely sends entire donation to the disaster victims.
hint: cannot demand funds/charity like this- even for good cause. Both guilty. It doesn’t matter how noble and honest Prem is. But taking cue from him, other employee might also start doing same- for personal use (e.g. need money for son’s cancer operation) and DevAnand will have hard time preventing them-will cause resentment among staff, will break team spirit.
Just because computer is not working
- Collector DevAnand has installed a new e-governance project in his district. All complaints are registered through computer, they can track progress through SMS /email alerts etc. But recently, Computer has stopped working in Tehsildar Prem Chopra’s office. Department has not yet sanctioned funds to get it repaired/replaced. A Poor villager comes with a petition how local patwari is not giving him land record copy. Prem refuses to accept complaint citing dysfunctional computer and orders the villager to goto district office where the computer ‘must be working’.
hint: Nothing prevents Prem Chopra from making a manual receipt of complaint. This is dilatory tactic/work evasion. Public offices have functioned even before the invention of computers and internet. Conduct unbecoming of a government servant.
- PWD engineer DevAnand’s wife wants to setup a beauty parlor. Local Contractor Prem Chopra says “I’ve an empty shop, and I’ll rent it to you at market rates. Don’t worry, I’m renting in good faith, won’t demand any favors from your husband later on.”
hint: Dev should not allow her wife to make any investment/renting/leasing that is likely to embarrass or influence him in the discharge of his official duties. Irrespective of what Prem Chopra promises.
- Subinspector Prem Chopra keeps big posters of Gods-Goddesses behind his desk. One day DCP DevAnand notices this, callsup Prem in his office and orders him to remove those posters. Within ten minutes, local MLA calls up Dev saying “you should reconsider your order, because it might hurt feelings of a particular community.”
hint: Yes, Prem brought ‘outside’ influence/pressure on his superior officer = misconduct.
- Young steno Helen comes to office wearing t-shirt and jeans. Boss DevAnand orders her to go back home and report in Saree/Salwar only. Helen directly goes to high court and files writ petition.
hint: Directly going to court for grievance redressal without exhausting remedies in departmental hierarchy= misconduct. (i.e. Helen should first complaint to Dev’s Boss about the office dress code.)
- After death of Government employee Prem Chopra. His wife Shashikala and mistress Bindu both have applied for pension rights. Over a dinner-gossip, Pension dept. officer DevAnand narrates this episode to his college buddy Pran.
hint: Divulging information that he got in official capacity to a third party-just for gossiping, in absence of Good faith/ court order=not right.
- DevAnand is the warden of police academy near A’bad. Every Saturday he visit A’bad to buy rations from shopkeeper Prem Chopra for the hostel. Dev also brings his kid for watching cinema/zoo etc. Every time Prem Chopra gives some toy, comics, ice-cream, cola to the kid.
hint: Dev should avoid this type of frequent hospitality from a person he has official dealings with.