Govt files to lose 'colour' literally

Government files will lose ‘colour’ from now on! Senior officers are barred from using green or red ink while making notings or putting their signature on files and drafts. For 14 years, they were “officially” permitted to use those inks.

Recent amendment to the Central Service Manual of Office Procedure  allows the use of only blue or black ink by all category of officers while making notings on files.

The earlier rule allowed officers above Joint Secretary rank to use green or red ink in “rare cases”, while it was a strict no for junior officers who were allowed to use only black or blue ink.

The use of green or red ink, some bureaucrats say, help in identifying the directions of the senior officers and act accordingly. However, another section feels that it reduces the scope for junior officers to be hesitant to  register their opinion, knowing the thinking of the superiors.

It was in April 2000 that the government “officially” allowed the use of green or red ink after deliberating the issue for more than a year in Ministries of Steel, Personnel, Home and Defence, Department of Printing and National Archives.

Former Union Minister Arun Shourie, in his 2004 book 'Governance and the Sclerosis That Has Set In', narrates an interesting tale on how the issue emanated and how it concluded.

It was a simple query from Shourie on the exact date on which two Steel Ministry officers made file notings in early 1999 that set the officialdom to find an answer on whether they could write in red and green ink.

“What caught the eye of their colleagues and superiors was not anything they had written, but the fact that they had used red and green ink,” Shourie wrote.

Former Delhi Chief Secretary Shailaja Chandra believes that the use of green ink by senior officers is a “hangover” of the colonial era. One of the Viceroys, the man at the helm of British administration in India, started using green ink and senior-most officials of various departments in independent India aped it.

On her first posting as a magistrate in 1968 under the Deputy Commissioner of Delhi, then a single district, Chandra quickly learned that any comment within the files in green ink was that of the head of the organisation.

“There were a lot of comments on the files. So, when we saw green ink on a file, it caught our attention,” she told Deccan Herald.

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