Moral Code of Conduct for what?

Moral Code of Conduct for what?

When Germany was divided as East and West, one day, a citizen of East Germany crossed illegally the border and entered West Germany in anticipation of enjoying greater freedom.

When Germany was divided as East and West, one day, a citizen of East Germany crossed illegally the border and entered West Germany in anticipation of enjoying greater freedom.

Confident of getting freedom, the person, stirring his hand stick, started wandering in the streets at will. Incidentally, the stick hit the nose of a person who in turn complained in the police station against the East Germany citizen.

The issue was taken to court where the judge questioned the East Germany citizen the reasons for hitting the plaintiff. The reply was that he got freedom immediately on entering West Germany and hence rotated the stick freely.

The judge observed that his "freedom starts where others' nose ends". This is exactly how the Election Moral Code of Conduct (MCC) unfortunately is! No one has any clue where, when and how it begins and then comes to a full stop.

In an unending and incessant process of Indian electoral system that goes on for months and months, the question often asked is how could the democratically elected governments function with MCC?

In the recent past and also quite for some time, several political leaders as well as Chief Ministers have raised their eyebrows and objected to the continuance of MCC for long.

In fact, their objection is that on the name of MCC, the Election Commission (EC) performs the way it likes.

MCC is in fact meant for a limited period beginning with announcement of schedule till end of elections but certainly not far beyond that.

The Indian electoral process is a long-drawn affair. The result is announced sometimes months after the elections are held as happening now.

If there are restrictions on the government, Chief Minister, his Cabinet colleagues and officers about what can be done and what not can be done even after the elections are completed, then it may not be appropriate.

We see quite often issuance of notices to CMs and others on alleged violations during electioneering like the one served on Telangana CM and finding fault in the replies also. This is certainly bad in taste.

It may be inappropriate on the part of EC to impose sanctions on the governments and Chief Ministers, for conducting official review meetings, though the elections have already been concluded.

For instance, in States like Telangana and AP and also Orissa, strict adherence to MCC is not conducive to a democratic functioning.

Is it necessary that AP Chief Minister needs to obtain permission from EC to review relief measures in the context of phony cyclone? Should he be bound by MCC to call for a Cabinet meet?

In a democratic set-up, it amounts to fault if reviews and Cabinet meetings are not held when such a situation arises.

In reality, as the election process is over, there is no possibility of influencing the voter and hence there is no wrong in going for the routine administrative measures including reviews and Cabinet meetings.

On the pretext of MCC, if reviews are not conducted, then there is no meaning to an elected representative government. The officially and unofficially elected machinery is in fact accountable to people but not to EC.

Against this background, the fundamental question is what an elected government can do and cannot do till the whole of election process including the long-awaited results declaration is completed.

In fact, until the new government is formed after the general elections, the government in office shall be vested with all powers to discharge its responsibilities and constitutional obligations.

Nowhere in the Constitution, either explicitly or implicitly a mention has been made whether an elected government could be restricted on the pretext of MCC.

Then why this limitation? In a democratic polity for continuity of good governance, for the welfare of weaker sections and downtrodden, for taking timely decisions, there shall not be any unnecessary limitations and more so on the pretext of MCC.

Parliamentary democracy presupposes frequent reviews by government both at official level and at CM level irrespective of MCC or no MCC. It should be more of a self-discipline mode rather than imposing type.

This was how originally it was conceived way back in 1960 in Kerala State, not by EC but through a consensus among political parties during Assembly Elections in the State. That was later adopted by EC and finally transformed into the present style.

It appears that, while the MCC is still in execution, Chandrababu Naidu decided to convene a Cabinet meeting and the process began with a note from CMO to the Chief Secretary.

As per routine procedure, the CS marked it to GAD and also held a review meeting with concerned officers on the possible agenda. He seems to have expressed the opinion that subject to permission from EC the meeting can take place.

Whether it is wrong or right on the part of CM to have Cabinet meeting while MCC is in operation is the subject of discussion among many IAS officers and others in the State. There is mixed opinion.

In the normal circumstances, the Chief Minister has every right to decide on the date and time for a Cabinet meeting and CS has no option as Secretary to Cabinet to convene the same.

Contrary to this, his right to have the same while MCC is in operation has become questionable since it requires according to EC its prior permission.

The issue however is, will it be appropriate to EC to reject the proposal of CM and CS? While this is so, interesting discussion has been going on that the decision of CM to have a Cabinet meeting is leading to differences between the CM and the CS.

In fact, it is also equally interesting as to what should be the manner of relationship between a civil servant and Minister or Chief Minister in a parliamentary democracy.

The Chief Minister reviewing at different levels with officers is a normal thing and implementation of decisions taken in the reviews is the sole responsibility of civil servant-the IAS officer.

In the policy making process, both the official and non-official share equal responsibility and if only there is a cordial relationship between both, there is every possibility for better governance.

The Armstrong Memorandum of Great Britain details the roles, responsibilities and the manner of relationship between Minister and civil servant. As a country, India, has adopted the parliamentary system of the UK.

Civil servants are accountable to Ministers meaning the democratically elected government. They should be above political considerations.

They should gain the confidence of concerned Minister and also the Chief Minister. Irrespective of their personal views, they should advice the Minister or CM as the case may be and their entire experience shall be placed at their disposal.

Even when they differ, they should extend their advice and allow them to take the final decision which they have to implement though he differed earlier.

Against this background and in the context of the AP developments, one thing is very clear. There is a clear indication that there exists a difference of opinion between the CM and CS at least as reported in a section of the press.

The CM instead of sending a routine note through CMO to CS for convening a Cabinet meeting would have spoken to him either over phone or in person.

CM should have discussed with CS about pros and cons of convening Cabinet meeting and should have sought his opinion both personal and official. CM should have solicited CS opinion as to how best together they could overcome the MCC stipulations.

Similarly, CS also, instead of perseverance in his own style, should have met the CM and discussed the issue threadbare and offered his view. Still there is enough time for these parleys before the Cabinet meets if agreed to by EC.

(The author is CPRO to CM)

Show Full Article
Download The Hans India Android App or iOS App for the Latest update on your phone.
More Stories