Thursday, October 03, 2013

How Shakespeare's Hamlet figures in Government’s handbook on vigilance

EXCERPTS of the immortal play of Hamlet authored by English poet and playwright William Shakespeare, have found a place in Government of India’s Handbook for Inquiry Officers and Disciplinary Authorities. The advice given by a father to his son in the passage of Hamlet had the following:
This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
The handbook, brought out by the Institute of Secretariat Training and Management at DoPT’s advice, then explains what Shakespeare means by this famous Polonius advice to Laertes. “That is the essence of the Principles of Natural Justice: Be true to yourself”, the Handbook adds. Sethu Ramalingam, a former faculty member of Institute of Secretariat Training and Management in vigilance matters, actually authored the Handbook.
In fact, this 239-page Handbook is a must read for government officials to get a 360 degree view of disciplinary and vigilance matters. With many an interesting example, the book explains matters such as disciplinary proceedings, Constitutional provisions relating to disciplinary proceedings, handling of complaints, preliminary investigation, action on investigation report, consultation with Central Vigilance Commission, suspension, drafting and issue of charge sheet, conduct of inquiry, evaluation of evidence, ex-parte inquiry, post-retirement proceedings, consultation with the UPSC, speaking orders, scope of judicial scrutiny etc.
Despite being loaded with legal vocabulary, the Handbook is an interesting read thanks to quotes and instances. For example, it has explained how the government at times chooses to dismiss the appellant “in a huff, without applying its mind”. Here is an interesting excerpt from one chapter:
Clause (a) of the second proviso to Article 311(2) of the Constitution confers on the Government the power to dismiss a person from service on the ground of conduct which has led to his conviction on a criminal charge". But, that power, like every other power, has to be exercised fairly, justly and reasonably. Surely the Constitution does not contemplate that a Government servant who is convicted for parking his scooter in a non-parking area should be dismissed from service. He may, perhaps, not be entitled to be heard on the question of penalty since Clause (a) of the second proviso to Article 311(2) makes the provisions of that article inapplicable when a penalty is to be imposed on a Government servant or the ground of conduct which has led to his conviction on a criminal charge. But the right to impose a penalty carries with it the duty to act justly. Considering the facts of this case, there can be no two opinions that the penalty of dismissal from service imposed upon the appellant is whimsical.

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