Where the fear of APAR is there, does a junior officer ever get a chance to record that superior officer has given the directions? Even if superior officer gives oral directions, it is actually imbibed by junior officer as his own noting. Both All India Civil Service Rules and Central Civil Service Rules covering most of the Government civil service contains the provision in Section3 from time immortal:
The direction of the official superior shall ordinarily be in writing. Oral direction to subordinates shall be avoided, as far as possible. Where the issue of oral direction becomes unavoidable, the official superior shall confirm it in writing immediately thereafter;
A Government servant who has received oral direction from his official superior shall seek confirmation of the same in writing as early as possible, whereupon it shall be the duty of the official superior to confirm the direction in writing.
Supreme Court Decision: “We, therefore, direct all the State Governments and Union Territories to issue directions like Rule 3(3) of the All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968, in their respective States and Union Territories which will be carried out within three months from today.”
Oral Directions to Civil Servants
It is not understood why this is a big news for the media, except for creating expectation of unexpected. On the first reaction from most of the officers, it is found that without reading the judgement of supreme court, they have unanimously concluded that from now on all decisions shall be in writing. That superior officer shall give most of the directions in writing. However, with the decision of Hon’ble Supreme Court, nothing changes. Only that SC has emphasised that like AIS rule 3(3) applicable to All India Service Officers, the directions shall be issued by all state Government to be implemented for other officers too. What is means that now the method applied by IAS in the state Government shall need to be followed by other service personnel too like State Services / Provincial Services. There is no change in the way Rule 3 (3) is to be interpreted.
Rule 3 (3) in IAS and also in Central Civil Service has always been there from 1964 or so.
It is true that the civil servants cannot function on the basis of verbal or oral instructions, orders, suggestions, proposals, etc. and they must also be protected against wrongful and arbitrary pressure exerted by the administrative superiors, political executive, business and other vested interests. Further, civil servants shall also not have any vested interests. Resultantly, there must be some records to demonstrate how the civil servant has acted, if the decision is not his, but if he is acting on the oral directions, instructions, he should record such directions in the file. If the civil servant is acting on oral directions or dictation of anybody, he will be taking a risk, because he cannot later take up the stand, the decision was in fact not his own. Recording of instructions, directions is, therefore, necessary for fixing responsibility and ensure accountability in the functioning of civil servants and to uphold institutional integrity.
But does it really change anything in the system? The problem is not who records it, the problem is if it is ever recorded! Where the fear of APAR is there, does a junior officer ever get a chance to record that superior officer has given the directions? Even if superior officer gives oral directions, it is actually imbibed by junior officer as his own noting. And yes indeed he cannot later take up the stand, the decision was in fact not his own. Therefore, implementing the Supreme Court Decision in other Departments and ministries of state Government shall not make much difference in so far as AIS 3 (3) is concerned.
One of the discussion thread on Oral Directions in reference to RTI is available here