Civil Service and The Constitution (part 3)

Part 2 of this series examined the contradictions and ambiguities in the Indian constitution.

A contradictory and ambiguous constitution has direct effects on the functioning of the judiciary and the legislatures. With no firm principles to guide them, judges have no standards other than their own convictions. With no clear limits on the powers of the legislature, legislators succeed in enacting laws with the sole purpose of extending their hold on power.

However it is the indirect effects of the constitution on the functioning of the executive (the bureaucracy) that this post seeks to examine. Consider a bureaucrat who sincerely intends to do his duty. His duty consists of implementing rules and policies decided by the legislature. The policies decided by a legislature concerned only with extending its hold on power cannot be implemented without violating the rights of individuals. The bureaucrat is left open to charges of discrimination or improper implementation if the victims of the policies seek justice. This creates a motivation to delay any required action or to push responsibility for it on someone else. Moreover the policies of the legislature are subject to arbitrary change as the balance of power shifts. The bureaucrat is then forced to reverse any actions he may have taken. The bureaucrat simply has no way to do his duties honestly. Any principled action he takes will earn him enemies from people in positions of power. Now consider a bureaucrat who has no scruples in doing whatever it takes to advance his career. All that he has to do is to ensure that he remains in the favor of his superiors and take as little responsibility as possible.

The arbitrary and unlimited powers conferred on the legislative and executive branches by the constitution make it impossible for the bureaucracy to function honestly. It is futile to complain that the bureaucracy is ‘corrupt’. It is impossible to reduce ‘corruption’ in the bureaucracy or bring transparency to its functioning without a proper constitution. And it is impossible to have a proper constitution without a widespread recognition of the proper role of a government.



In a comment to Part 2 of this series Aristotle The Geek pointed me to this link to Ayn Rand’s essay “The Nature of Government” hosted on this page of The Center For Civil Society.

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