Probity in Governance

Probity in Governance

This article deals with topic titled ‘Probity in Governance.’ This is part of our series on ‘Ethics’  . For more articles , you can click here


# What is Probity

  • Dictionary meaning of Probity is uprightness, integrity and incorruptibility . In broader sense, Probity is the super set which includes all good qualities including integrity
  • It is Ethical Value (ie wrt society) compared to Integrity  which is Moral Value . Integrity is doing right thing which is correct to yourself but Probity is doing Right thing which is correct according to all including you . Hence, in this one take preventive measures so that his act is never questioned by anyone.
  • Probity is very important for Civil Servant because
        • They work under doctrine of public trust
        • They enjoy lot of discretion
        • Indian society is divided on various lines, hence decisions shouldn’t be seen to be partisan


How to enhance Probity in Governance

  • Ensured by improving measures of accountability, transparency, and responsiveness
  • Effective implementation of RTI, Whistle-blower Act, Benami Transaction Act, Citizens’ Charter
  • Conflict of Interests should be avoided by Public Servants
  • Laws, rules and regulations should govern every aspect of public life
  • Sensitivity training to civil servants
  • Development of values through institutional support. (Values like, honesty, integrity, commitment to public service etc).
  • Ethics audits to identify risks to the integrity
  • Effective external and internal complaint and redressal procedures.
  • Undertaking measures like social audit


Conflict of Interest

What is Conflict of Interest

Conflict of interest is a set of circumstances that creates risk that  primary interest can be unduly influenced by secondary interest.

  • Primary interest refers to the principal goals of the profession
  • Secondary interest includes financial gain , professional advancement and the wish to do favours for family and friends.


For example

  • government official is part of an appointment board to a post for which his son has also applied
  • Dealing with relatives / Nepotism : Giving favours to relatives in Public contracts.
  • Bribery : personal economic gains vs public interest
  • Future Employment : If a public employee intends to seek employment in the future with a firm he now transacts official business with, the tendency may be to give favoured treatment


Current Examples

  • Chief Justice Judge in his own case or making Bench involving his own name : Principle – Person cant be judge in his own case + Justice should not only be done but it should be seen to be done.
  • BCCI Chairman owner of IPL Franchise Chennai Superkings : He can unduly influence selection process of Indian Cricket Team
  • Owner of Beedi Manufacturing Company who is MP was member of Parliamentary Committee to suggest Warning Size on Tobacco Products


How to resolve Conflict of Interest

  • Follow Code of Conduct (where it exists)
  • Declaration of Interests so that Conflict of Interest can be easily recognised.
  • In case there is case of Conflict, he should recuse himself from the case
  • Take decision based on Objectivity  ie only on basis of facts and merits
  • Ensure maximum Transparency and Accountability so that others know how decision has been reached .




Constitutional Protection to Civil Servants

Under Article 311, Civil Servants enjoy extensive protection .  Article 311 reads that  – Dismissal, removal or reduction in rank of persons employed in civil capacities under the Union or a State cant be done by Authority subordinate to that by which he was appointed.


Arguments in favour of deleting Art 311

  • Against the practice followed in other countries. Even in the UK, whose administrative systems were adopted in India, such freedom does not exist.
  • Hota Committee has recommended to repeal it
  • 2nd ARC recommended to repeal Articles 311
  • National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution had recommended



Necessary to punish corrupt officials but also to protect honest ones

  • There is always a scope of questioning the efficacy of the decision in hindsight. If the civil servant fears prosecution at a future date for the decisions which, although well intentioned, did not lead to desired results, this may discourage decision making
  • Such practices can cause
  • Policy Paralysis : Honest officer will prefer to do nothing in order to avoid any allegations in future
        • Bad Loans and NPAs worsened because Bank Officials feared to give Cuts and doing one time settlements


This can be checked in following way

  • Transparency : Make public how decisions are taken
  • Requirement of prior sanction to prosecute— For instance, amending Prevention of Corruption Act, thus making it mandatory for investigating agencies like the CBI to take prior approval from the government
  • Doctrine of Mens Rea : Prosecuting Agencies must prove criminal intent behind doing particular act
  • Diffusion of Power in Decision making : Instead of single official , Committee of Officials should take important decisions .


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