1.In the case of Vineet Narain vs. Union of India (AIR 1998 SC 889) the S.C. observed that Public Service is a trust and failure to discharge this trust is a breach of trust and should be punished severely. What have been the obstacles in this behalf?

2.Prem Shankar Jha, a keen observer of Indian economy points out how the bureaucracy itself has been an obstacle to economic development, as foreigners themselves point out.

3.Local industrialists find the administrative climate stifling. Comment with reference to the Nano project in W.Bengal and the problems facing the Infosys in Bangalore. Critics call Narendra Modi, praised by the Industrialists as ‘Feku’ Your comments.

4.Singapore, fund managers and corporate executives revealed that the main reason why they were not prepared to mesh India into their global production plans was that even after they had obtained all the clearances from the Central and State Governments, they remained at the mercy of local bureaucrats and politicians. Any one of them could stop their operations, and threatened to do so if they were not given an adequate ‘inducement’.  Industrialists , both foreign and local regard change of governments in India with nervousness. Do you agree?

5. Certain recommendations have been made to ensure Probity in Governance. One such is to eliminate Benami Transactions. Do you know what they are?

6. Probity requires ending Malfeasance, Misfeasance and Non Feasance. Do you understand these terms? No public servant can say “you may set aside an order on the ground of mala fide but you cannot hold me personally liable”.   No public servant can arrogate to himself the power to act in a manner which is arbitrary. Any comments? To guide you: the SC held: The Supreme Court directed one Minister to pay a sum of Rs. Fifty lakhs by way of exemplary damages to the government. Likewise, the other Minister was asked to pay a sum of Rs. Sixty lakhs by way of exemplary damages.  The Court, in both the cases, concluded that the actions of the Ministers amounted to a misfeasance of public property.

The Supreme Court relied upon the well stated position in Ramana Deyaram Shettey and Lucknow Development Authority to hold that in the matter of grant of largesse, the Government and its officials were expected to act in a fair, just and transparent manner and that if they acted in a malicious and deliberate manner causing injury to the citizens of the State, they could be held liable for damages.  Rookes v. Barnard was relied upon to hold that exemplary damages could be awarded for “oppressive, arbitrary and unconstitutional action by the servants of the government.”.

These decisions, certainly, were welcome and enhanced the image of the Supreme Court in the public eye. The decisions established that courts were concerned with public servants and ministers could not escape consequences of their mala fide acts and orders.  The decisions, in substance, demonstrated the adage that “howsoever high you may be, the law is above you”.  The decisions reinforced the rule of law and not that of men and further that public servants must develop a respect for public property and, above all, that public office is a trust and not a charter of corruption, nepotism and personal gain. Fine. But what do we do when the fence iiself mows down the crop. Comment on the role of a few judges, lawyers, court procedures and activities  like these against the background of the praise worthy struggle by the Judiciary to ensure probity in governance?

7.A comprehensive law needs to be enacted to provide that where public servants cause loss to the State by their mala fide actions or omissions of a palpable character to be defined,  they should be made liable to make good the loss caused by him to the State and, in addition, would be open to the imposition of exemplary damages. The principles must include cases of misuse of official position and acts outside authority. The expression ‘public servant’ must be extended to ‘all public servants as defined in the Indian Penal Code and in the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, which expression has been interpreted to include Members of  Parliament, Members of State Legislatures and Councils and Ministers. Your comments.

To be continued in the third blog on this topic. Please quote the point number on which you are making a comment.

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