Mains Marathon

Day 26: Illustrate the importance of the code of conduct in the discharge of their duties for a civil servant. Elucidate how the code of conduct is different from code of ethics. (150 words)

05 Aug 2022 | GS Paper 4 | Theoretical Questions

Approach / Explaination / Answer

  • Give a brief introduction about the role of a civil servant.
  • Describe the importance of code of conduct and code of ethics in the discharge of the role of a civil servant.
  • Write difference between the two with examples.
  • Give a fair conclusion.


A civil servant is an official in the service of the people in a contemporary democracy who is recruited based on established criteria. Civil servants are officials who must be aware about the country's laws and regulations and are expected to operate in the best interests of the nation and its citizens. They are in charge of managing the government's resources and ensuring that they are used efficiently and effectively. Civil servants must preserve their integrity, fearlessness, and independence in order for a parliamentary system to function well. According to the head of the Canadian Public Service, one of the most essential tasks of the public service is to "speak truth to power."

The challenge of ethics and accountability among civil servants raises several questions about the framework of the code of conduct, constitutional protection, the politician-bureaucratic nexus, and their political victimization. To address these difficulties and sustain civil servant integrity and discipline, multiple reform committees such as the Santhanam Committee (1964), Hota Committee (2004), and the most recent Second Administrative Reform Committee Report (2005) were constituted.

Code of conduct for civil servants

"Conduct Rules," a compilation of guidelines with "do's and don'ts," was released in the 1930s. The All India Services Rules, adopted in 1955, divided the compilation into separate regulations. The 1964 version of these regulations was the outcome of the Santhanam Committee's recommendation. Later amendments to these guidelines added other behavioural standards.

According to the All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968, every member of the service shall maintain:

  • Integrity and honesty;
  • Political neutrality;
  • Promoting the principles of merit, fairness and impartiality in the discharge of duties;
  • Accountability and transparency;
  • Responsiveness to the public, particularly to the weaker section;
  • Courtesy and good behaviour with the public.

Code of ethics vs code of conduct rules

There is no ethical code for civil servants in India, despite similar standards exist in other nations. We have a set of guidelines that forbid a range of typical acts. These standards for behaviour have a function, but they are not a code of ethics. While the Conduct Rules provide basic guidelines such as "keeping integrity and unwavering commitment to duty," The code of conduct is typically intended to list particular acts deemed inappropriate for civil servants. Recently, there has been some concern that additional "generic norms" should be added to the list of permitted conduct.

In 2007, the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions published a draft "Public Service Bill" to establish a set of generic standards of civil servants known as "values." The major "values" envisioned in the Bill are as follows:

  • Allegiance to the various ideals enshrined in the preamble to the Constitution
  • Apolitical functioning
  • Good governance for the betterment of the people to be the primary goal of civil service
  • Duty to act objectively and impartially
  • Accountability and transparency in decision-making
  • Maintenance of the highest ethical standards
  • Merit to be the criteria in the selection of civil servants consistent, however, with the cultural, ethnic and other diversities of the nation
  • Ensuring economy and avoidance of wastage in expenditure
  • Provision of a healthy and congenial work environment
  • Communication, consultation and cooperation in the performance of functions is the participation of all levels of personnel in management.
Difference Between Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics
Code of Conduct Code of Ethics
  • A legally enforceable code of conduct sets out the standards of behaviour expected of those working in the public service.
  • The Civil Service code outlines the Civil Service's core values, and the standards of behaviour expected of all civil servants in upholding these values.
  • In India, the current set of ethical norms are the Conduct Rules, contained in the Central Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964 and analogous rules applicable to members of the All India Services or employees of various State Governments.
  • The code of behaviour as enunciated in the Conduct Rules contain general norms like ‘maintaining integrity and absolute devotion to duty’
  • These conduct rules do not constitute a code of ethics.
  • Such a code contains a declaration of values for the civil services, reflecting public expectations of the relationship between the civil service and the government, the legislature, and the members of the public.
  • It entails specific reference to political impartiality, maintenance of the highest ethical standards, accountability for actions and responsibilities to the government.
  • There is no Code of Ethics prescribed for civil servants in India although such codes exist in other countries.
  • There is a need for more generic norms to be laid down by way of accepted conduct for the civil servants as recommended by the Hota committee.

The proposed Bill includes a public service code and a public service management code, which give more specific requirements. Penalties for code infractions would be similar to the major and minor fines presently imposed by leaders of organizations and institutions. A "Public Service Authority" is also envisaged to oversee the implementation of the code and the declared goals, as well as to provide advice on both.