THE All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968 through which we, as IAS and IPS officers, are governed states in the very beginning of Rule 3-“The direction of the official superior shall ordinarily be in writing. Where the issue of oral direction becomes unavoidable, the official superior shall confirm it in writing immediately thereafter” and “A member of the Service who has received oral direction from his official superior shall seek confirmation of the same in writing, as early as possible and in such case, it shall be the duty of the official superior to confirm the direction in writing.” The same kind of conduct rules apply for all other services. What it means is that orders can come only in a written manner or need to be immediately put in writing.
The other aspect is that the executive power of the Union extends to matters stated in Article 73 of the Constitution while that of the State shall extend to matters stated in Article 162. The Delhi Government has specific Articles 239AA and 239AB devoted to it in the Constitution which places it in a special position. As per section 44 of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991, the President of India shall make rules (a) for the allocation of business to the Ministers in so far as it is business with respect to which the Lieutenant Governor is required to act on the aid and advice of his Council of Ministers; and (b) for the more convenient transaction of business with the ministers, including the procedure to be adopted in the case of a difference of opinion between the Lieutenant Governor and the Council of Ministers or a Minister.
In exercise of the powers conferred by section 44 of the above Act, the President of India made the Transaction of Business of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Rules, 1993. Rule 15 says that proposals or matters may be disposed of by or under the authority of the Minister-in-charge who may, by means of standing orders, give such directions as he thinks fit for the disposal of proposals or matters in his Department.
From the above constitutional and legal provisions, it is clear that the Minister in charge of the Department is solely responsible for the final decision-making and functioning of their respective Department. But at the same time, it is also clear that the Minister does not have authority and power over a Department or agency beyond what he has been assigned.
The basic issue is that the ministers gave these directions in their individual capacity; they were oral orders and such oral orders in individual capacities are against the basic rules of administration. The same conduct rules apply to all services.
What happened in Delhi recently where two ministers went to different places in Delhi and gave directions to the Delhi police personnel for certain raids and acts which the policemen refused to comply with needs to be seen in the light of the above legal provisions. While it is true that there is a big section of people who are currently seen to be supporting the ministers’ personal actions but if the above matter is seen from an academic perspective, many facts would emerge that seem to state that not only is the ministers’ stand improper, it is also dangerous, having its own long-term repercussions. As far as the facts that have emerged through media reports, first, the two ministers in their individual capacity gave certain oral directions and when refused by the policemen, they seemed to be arguing and fighting with the Delhi police persons and then were seen building pressure to get them suspended. As a professional, this goes against the basic concept of autonomy in professional work. To me, it is a further manifestation of undue political interference.
There are many who seem to be supporting the ministers’ stand because they think that they were asking for action in common public good while the policemen were not acting and were showing inaction because of definite personal and extraneous motives, related with corrupt motives. Then, there also comes in play the common public perception about policemen, which whether one likes it or not, is not very positive. As a senior police officer, I might personally dislike it or might even try to refute it, but this does not alter the fact that a reasonable section of our population perceives the police as being unresponsive, corrupt, ineffective and siding with the wrong people.
But it needs to be understood that the issue here is not whether all policemen are good or bad; it is also not whether the orders of the minister were correct or not. The basic issue is that the ministers gave these directions in their individual capacity; they were oral orders and such oral orders in individual capacities are against the basic rules of administration, as has been explained above. In addition, the ministers headed other departments and as per the Rules of Business and the Delhi State Act, they did not have the legal authority to direct and issue orders to the policemen.
WHETHER the police is today working as a professional organisation or not, the fact remains that it would be in the benefit of the entire nation and society that it strives to become a professional body. If such a concept is accepted, at least in theory, then the policemen were legally absolutely correct in refusing these oral personal orders—cent per cent correct. Whatever the ministers wanted to do was not in their administrative control and they tried to enforce it through their external influence as being a minister of government, which again goes against the basic principles of administration. It was not the ministers’ right or duty to impose their will on these matters even if they might have been factually correct because such a trend will lead to utter chaos and complete dictatorship.
If a similarity can be thought of, it is almost like the act of police encounters that are so blatantly criticised by right-thinking people, as it will lead to heavy misuse of such authority and functioning. The worst is that now these ministers in their individual capacity and the chief minister in his individual capacity and as political persons are building unwarranted and improper pressure to get these policemen suspended, just because they disobeyed the oral, unauthorised orders of some ministers.
It is definitely legally and administratively incorrect. It also reflects the open misuse of authority. If such a thing actually happens, it will be a sad day for the Indian administrative system and functioning. Just because policemen carry a bad reputation in the eyes of many, it does not give anyone a right to issue improper and legally incorrect dictates and adopt such short-cuts.
Instead, all efforts need to be taken to make all the government agencies, including the police, autonomous professional bodies, where extraneous influences of politicians and political masters, particularly beyond their domain of legal influence gets pruned to the minimum. This is the minimum required for better governance, genuinely.
Amitabh Thakur, IPS officer from UP, is also working for transparency in governance. The views expressed are personal.