While the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court on civil services could go a long way in allowing the bureaucracy to function without fear of political interference, civil servants doubt whether there is the political will to implement it. On Thursday, the Supreme Court directed the Centre and the state governments to fix a minimum tenure for bureaucrats and to issue service rules to ensure all instructions are recorded in writing to protect civil servants from “wrongful and arbitrary pressure exerted by the administrative superiors, political executive, business and other vested interests.”
“This judgement applies to all central services, not just the IAS. We have been saying for last 15-20 years that the laws should be appropriately amended so that civil servants can work without fear or favour. Now our main concern is that the judgment should be complied with both in letter and spirit,” said Sanjay Bhoos Reddy, secretary, IAS officers’ association. While Thursday’s Supreme Court judgment has been compared to the 2006 judgment on police reforms (Prakash Singh Versus Union of India) which has remained on paper, experts say, the SC directives on civil services is simpler to implement. According to the IAS officers’ association, implementing the SC order will require a couple of amendments to the relevant All India Service Rules, which the Centre is empowered by Parliament to make. But even when amendments are issued by the Centre, their implementation can be held up by states that are unwilling to comply. And so, while the necessity of a minimum tenure has already been endorsed by the Centre by amending the relevant All India Service Rules, notifications have been issued only in13 states that have accepted the amendment. As per the annual report 2011-2o12 of the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions, the 13 states include Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Orissa Chhattisgarh, Goa and six of the north eastern states. But with the Supreme Court now setting a three month deadline for the Centre and the state governments to “issue appropriate directions to secure providing of minimum tenure of service to various civil servants,” there is renewed expectation that the truant states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Punjab who’ve put up stiff resistance to fixing a minimum tenure will now have to fall in line. “These administrative reforms can take place the day that the government has the will. If the government decides, it will happen 24 hours, otherwise it will not happen in 24 years,”said Reddy.