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Mere Compliance with Law is not enough.


Mere compliance with law is not enough, the public servant also has to have a well-developed sensibility to ethical issues for effective discharge of duties.

Why ?
Just imagine a situation where there is an act to be done by you which is, Ethically Right but Legally wrong or Legally Right but Ethically Wrong, then how would you go ahead? Which one do you ignore: Ethics or Law? I think you may not breach the law as you will have to pay a big amount for it (Your successful career and secure life including your termination from the service etc). In this case, you will definitely explore another less risky alternative, which may have a nominal penalty for any violation.

However, in that circumstance, both compliance of law and ethical sensibilities are needed for a civil servant.

Let's understand with instances:

Ethically Right but Legally Wrong: A doctor may wish to administer euthanasia to a terminally ill patient to relive him of the unbearable pain. Though it is morally right for him, he can not do it as it is not permitted legally in our Country.

Legally Right but Ethically Wrong: Legally it may be right for army personnel to conduct raids and even kill a suspect in states where Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) is applicable. But ethically it is wrong as it involves depriving the citizens their basic human rights including their right to get justice from the court of law.

If armed forces had killed the people just on the instructions of the law, like a programmed machine, and later if we find the person innocent (as, nobody is infallible whether it is a man, Supreme Court and/or any constitutional machinery) we can not get this person's life back. Life is so precious we must realise this fact.

I consider this as an extra-judicial murder, an inhuman and extraneous act in the matter of social relevance. If they just follow the law without emotions and ethics there is a great tendency, in officers, of developing "arrogance of power" which is even against the constitutional principles of the country.

Apparently, many people have been claiming, especially in Assam and Jammu & Kashmir, that their family members were killed regardless of quantitative reasons. Along with this, there are numberless instances where the courts have found a man to be innocent after, even after being convicted by the apex court, prescribing a rigorous or extreme punishment. That is the reason why the "Concept of awarding the Capital Punishment" has been largely denounced by the Social reformers.  

There is a set of procedures for awarding Capital punishment to someone, that means if the authorities are awarding capital punishment to someone they have to follow certain procedures and guidelines very carefully, in spite of all there is no guarantee of its 100% accuracy or correctness.

Many people go ahead with an illogical and commonly misunderstood interpretation of killing terrorists by this theory of elimination but we should realize the gravity of the issue that only 5 to 6%, hardly 10% of the total population, of terrorists are there but we tend to criminalize the entire identity of the state and treating our own people as a dynamiter. So there is always a potential possibility of committing a blunder, over the suspicion, by killing innocent people. In this regard, Sir William Blackstone, in his commentaries on law (Criminal Law) of England suggested that "It is better that 100 guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer".


So a civil servant/public officer needs to have proper ethical literacy, competency and moral reasoning abilities for effective discharge of his duties.



It is significant due to the following other reasons also:
  1. A better interpretation of the law and its enforcement;
  2. Ethics solves the deadlocks, between the people and administration, which may become expensive and time-consuming if treated by law;
  3. Realizing the pain of the people, so a better prescription could be offered to them, to ensure good governance.
  4. Optimum utilization of available resources;
  5. Better understanding the needs of People; (one of the vital pillars of any effective governance).
  6. Better policy formulation and implementation;
  7. Bridging the gap between people and administration which reduces the possibility to get involved in unnecessary conflicts and etc.
So, for effective service delivery, a public servant must be ethically sensitive along with complying with the law. 


Note: Views are personal and independent and may not be subject to be accepted unanimously. There are many people who may or may not respect my opinions however, I always try to protect the sentiments of those people irrespective of their concurrence or unanimity.