Civil Service and The Constitution (Part 1)

In an article in The Indian Express, Meeta Rajivlochan says that civil servants should “owe allegiance to the constitution first and foremost”. She goes on to say

“Overt neutrality and strong commitment to the Constitution and the rules of the land make a bureaucrat function much better”.

and concludes

“It is the danger of relinquishing a commitment to the Constitution of India in favour of a more personalised commitment  (political, religious, cultural or otherwise), and not corruption, which is by far the greatest malaise facing the civil service today. Corruption merely undermines the moral integrity of the individual. Abandoning of political neutrality undermines the entire structure and logic of bureaucracy.”

Meeta is right that corruption is not the greatest problem with the Indian state. She is also right in her identification of the problem. But she misses out on its cause. The idea that civil servants should be committed to upholding the constitution comes from the idea of rule by laws, not by men. But an implementation of that idea is only possible if laws are objective, principled and limited. The Indian constitution grants parliament almost unlimited powers to enact laws. It is this that allows politicians and thus the bureaucracy to get away with anything. It is this that breeds corruption.

(Part 2 will take a more detailed look at the Indian Constitution)

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