Security of tenure

The Central government’s decision to amend the rules governing the service of IAS, IPS and Indian Forest Service officers, giving them a minimum two-year tenure in their posts, will give senior officials a measure of protection against arbitrary and whimsical transfers.

There has been a longstanding demand for stability of tenure at Central and state levels from service associations and others but it required a Supreme Court directive for the government to act in the matter. Guidelines on tenure have in fact existed but have not been followed by governments. With the notification of the rules  governments will now be hopefully forced to abide strictly by them and ensure that officers are not shifted out of their posts for personal, political or other reasons. This is in the best interests of efficient and impartial administration.

Each state will now have to set up a civil service board under the chairmanship of the chief secretary which will make recommendations of postings and transfers. If an officer has to be transferred within the minimum two-year tenure period, the board has to clear it. The recommendation can be overruled by the government only after clearly laying down the reasons for it in writing.  The new procedure will make transfer decisions more transparent and might ensure that they are actually done in public interest. It may still be possible to get around the rules but the measure will insulate the bureaucracy to a good extent from politics and pressure. Officers need time to settle down in their jobs. Very often they are forced to take wrong decisions or not to take the right decisions on threat of transfer or other forms of punishment. There are upright officers who have been transferred 40 to 50 times during their tenure. The recent cases of Ashok Khemka of Haryana and Durga Shakti Nagpal of UP are well known.

There is no doubt that bureaucracy is accountable to the political executive in a democracy. So  the government should have control over appointments and postings, which are to be actually by it even after the amendment of the rules. But the rules might help to curb unjust and indiscriminate use of this power. Officers will now have to be selected for their posts with greater care. All states should implement the new rules without delay. It is also necessary to extend the modified rules to other services which have been left out.

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