To contest, ‘Cooling off’ period for civil servants?
Bureaucrats may not be able to fight polls just after quitting jobs
New Delhi, July 22 (PTI): A move may be in the offing to bar civil servants, including top police officials, from jumping into the electoral fray immediately after they exit government service. The government may prescribe a “cooling off” period to such civil servants under a proposal of the Legislative department through an amendment in the service rules, than in the electoral law.
Concerned over a number of “senior civil servants” jumping into the poll fray, the Election Commission had earlier this year asked the government to bring in a “cooling off period” clause between leaving the government job and joining a political party by these officials which include those from the IAS, IPS and other Class ‘A’ services.
The EC had asked the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) to suggest a “suitable” cooling off period for these officials so that they remain impartial during their tenure and take decisions with integrity while they serve.
“It is stated that once a person in government service demits office by virtue of any reason whatsoever, he becomes an ordinary man and therefore, we may not treat them unequally.
“Also, by putting any provision in the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (with regard to cooling off period) debarring the retired government servant from contesting elections and thereby curtailing their statutory right seems an arbitrary provision. Therefore, the Legislative Department is of the view that the remedy lies in making provision in the relevant service rules and not amendment in the election laws,” the department said in a communication to the DoPT.
The Legislative department was responding to the DoPT’s contention that “amendment in service rule for providing ‘cooling off period’ may not be appropriate or feasible in this case.”
According to the letter, the DoPT was instead of the view that the ‘cooling off period’ may require amendment in the election laws.
The Legislative department has also asked the Attorney General for his opinion on the proposed amendment. While there are rules at present which restrict a civil servant from joining a private job for at least an year after he or she retires or resigns from the government service, there are no rules regarding joining political parties or joining active politics.
The Election Commission had mooted the initiative as it wanted that an overall level playing field is maintained during the polls.
The Law Ministry’s letter underlines the EC’s worry on this subject.
“This proposal of the Election Commission was emanated when it was noticed in recent elections that many senior civil servants, including police officers joined politics immediately after retiring from service and are contesting from constituencies which were under their jurisdiction while in service,” the letter said.
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