Cabinet to revise code of conduct for ministers

ParliamentCode of Conduct to ensure ministers do not pressure bureaucrats to take decisions.

In an attempt to draw a line between political masters and bureaucrats, the Cabinet on Thursday is likely to take up a revision of the Code of Conduct for Ministers (both Union and State). The revision, undertaken by Ministry of Home Affairs, will suggest that ministers should not exert pressure on bureaucrats to take certain decisions. Bureaucrats cultivating political patronage will also be monitored, as per the revision.

"After taking office, and so long as he remains in office, the minister shall uphold the political impartiality of the civil services and not ask the civil servants to act in any way that would conflict with the duties and responsibilities of the civil servants," the proposed revision states.

The code of conduct requires ministers to disclose their and their family members' assets, liabilities and business interests. They are also not supposed to accept valuable gifts from people with whom they have official dealings. They are also supposed to make sure their family members don't contract debts of a nature likely to embarrass or influence them in the discharge of their official duties.

The revision in the code of conduct was prompted by recent instances where bureaucrats were seen acting at the behest of their political masters. A case in point is when a bribery scandal erupted involving former railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal's nephew. Bansal's private secretary Rahul Bhandari, a Punjab cadre IAS officer, is now being investigated by the CBI. The CBI has also lodged a preliminary inquiry against Bhandari for allegedly amassing disproportionate assets.

It was also observed that the bureaucracy had been conceived as an independent, permanent and impartial service but has not been able to live up to this reputation. "The code of conduct and ethics will define division of responsibility between the ministers and civil servants with the underlying theme that the political neutrality and impartiality of civil servants need to be preserved," said a senior MHA official.

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