IF A Member of Parliament or a Member of Legislative Assembly visits an Indian officer, the officer can’t just afford to be casual and say a hello. A recent Central government office memorandum (OM) has reiterated that the concerned officer needs to be courteous and must stand up to receive and see off the political leader. The office memorandum dated December 1, 2011 which was issued by department of personnel and training (DoPT) further said that MPs must get invitations to public functions organized by the government in their constituencies. That’s not all. “Proper and comfortable seating arrangements at public functions and proper order of seating on the dais should be made for MPs/MLAs keeping in view that they appear above officers at the rank of secretaries to Government of India”, the office memo added.
The timing of the OM is significant as many bureaucrats have refused to push the files even at the diktat of their political masters. The reason? They could be the subject to a future investigation for no fault of theirs. Also, the government has of late received some complaints that the existing protocol of babu-neta relations are not being properly adhered to. The OM has been issued mainly to sensitize the government departments about this relations.
The 5-page-long office memorandum also gave minute details about the need to furnish information of local importance to MPs and MLAs whenever asked for, and acknowledgement of their letters within 15 days and reply in the next 15 days.
In fact, the Central Secretariat Manual of Office Procedure mentions some of the protocols officers need to follow while dealing with the political leaders. The recent OM has basically strengthened the instructions that exist under Rule 3(2A) of All India Service (Conduct) Rule, 1968 and Rule 3-A of Central Civil Service (Conduct) Rules, 1964.
Yet the OM has made it very clear that the government officer may not concede whatever the public representative asks for. “While the government servants should consider carefully or listen patiently to what the Members of Parliament and of the State Legislatures may have to say, the government servant should always act according to his own best judgment and as per rules”, it said. After all, conceding anything and everything that an MP or MLA asks for may guide the officer straight to the jail.