The Public Services Bill 2007 which is expected to be taken up by the Indian Parliament in the current session is a manifestation of the struggle of the Indian bureaucracy for devising a mechanism which could ensure efficiency and efficacy of public services . The proposed legislation attempts to set up a regulatory and protective framework for making the civil and police officers perform in a competitive atmosphere without interference and without fear of persecution for being upright and impartial. It covers All India Services namely the IAS, IPS and Indian Forest Services. State Govts. have the option to extend it to respective state public services.
The bill visualizes setting up of a Central Public Service Authority as the apex agency responsible for coordination, control and monitoring of various structural changes visualized in the proposed enactment. The matters relating to the constitution of the Central Public Authority are dealt in Chapter VI of the Bill.
The Authority is to be headed by a person of eminence with at least 25 years expertise in dealing with public service matters. However the bill prohibhits appointment of a MP or MLA or a person connected to any office in a political pand India’s arty to this post. The authority shall have between 3 to 5 members in addition to the Chairperson.
The appointment of Chairperson and members is to be done with approval of the President of India based on recommendations of a selection committee comprising of the Indian Prime Minister , Leader of Opposition, and India’s Home Minister with the Cabinet Secretary in the Govt. Of India as the convener. The salary and conditions of service of the Chairperson and the members shall be at par with the Chief Election Commissioner of India and Indian Election Commissioners respectively. The tenure of appointment is proposed as five years or till attaining of age of 65 years.
The Central Govt shall have to compulsorily consult this Central authority on various matters of public services including evolution and monitoring of a Public Service Code and matters relating to ethics in public service as well as the performance management startegy for public services.
The Public Services which shall be covered by the scheme visualized in the Bill have been defined as below:
Public Services” means the All India Services, the Central Services and any other Service and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union notified by the Central Government;
The principles to be followed in the matter of recruitment to public services are contained in Chapter II which highlights that such appointments shall be on basis of merit and open and fair competition.
Chapter II of the bill deals with certain idealistic concepts such as Public Service values and Public Service Codes. Central Services and All India Services have been so far covered by Conduct Rules which have over the years become a patch work quilt of instructions related to behaviour expected of public servants and need restructuring. The bill proposes to reformulate the approach to these matters .
The Public Service Values projected in the new legislation are coined in more poetic language referring to patriotism, and allegiance to law of the nation while simultaneously making reference to other practical aspects such as integrity, honesty, transparency etc. for the public services.
The bill seeks to ensure preparation of a Public Service Code with the objective of setting standards of good governance for ensuring that public services are carried out with integrity and efficiency. Any breach of public service ethics shall be subject to punishment as per sanctions prescribed in the law.
Chapter IV of the Bill concerns Performance Management and Accountability for the public services .For this purpose a Performance Management Code is to be evolved by the Central Authority .This code will help ensure that the Public Services function as per developmental and management requirements of the State and objective evaluation of performance is facilitated. The code is expected to inject elements of accountability, neutrality , integrity and professionalism of approach in public services.
Chapter V concerns the conditions of service and protection offered to public servants.
The bill proposes to retain the existing jurisdiction and functions of statutory bodies like Union Public Service Commission, Central Vigilance Commission and assigns several responsibilities to cadre controlling authority which include formulation of service rules and a grievance redressal mechanism for public servants.
In course of discharge of it’s mandated functions , the Central Authority can seek public opinion on policy matters . It has to also submit an annual report to Govt. on various functional issues including cases of non consultation or non compliance of it’s directions.
The scheme of governance conceived in the bill if accepted and sincerely implemented could metamorphose the picture of public services . Besides offering protection and performance based encouragement it could create a mechanism which is committed to deliver while taking away the interference and pressure tactics which reduce the bureaucratic performance. This will mean depriving the politicians of the unfair advantage which they enjoy today. It is to be seen whether the lawmakers would approve of the suggested changes. Let us keep our fingers crossed.